Friday, May 30, 2014

Southern Girl Loves Pittsburgh Boy

Today, I say good-bye to my Boston University family.  Given all that Steve and I have been dealing with lately, I had kind of laughed at the fact that my last day at BU fell on the same day of our 16th wedding anniversary.  Goofy types of scheduling things just seem to happen to us all the time - we have the planes, trains, and rental car bills to prove it.  But, as I've been reflecting on my time at BU and my overall professional career path, it's actually quite fitting that I would celebrate my marriage to Steve on this day as well. He has been by my side for 20 years and I couldn't have accomplished my professional goals without his love, support, and encouragement.

One of my fondest memories with Steve was taking drives in his old Chevette listening to music (there was a whole lot of Rush and Jimmy Buffett tapes).  Since he was 16, his cars offered him a way to escape; I knew his car was a special possession to him.  When, without hesitation, he gave me the keys to his car so that I could do an internship at Mary Washington hospital, I just knew we were going to be partners for life, in good times and in bad.

I say good-bye to BU today and hello to my new job of fighting cancer on Monday.  I love this picture of us because it reminds me of how our story began and the love that sustains us through all the ups and downs.  I am beyond thankful for my family and friends and know that the journey ahead will be filled with light, love, and laughter.


It has been an honor being Mrs. Virginia Ann Bounds Schaffer.  I love you and I thank you. 
Save the last dance for me ;-)

Love always,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Facts of Life

I've had the theme song of that oh-so-great 80s show, "The Facts of Life" in my head for the past few days.  "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life" because I think it was easier to believe that what has transpired these past couple of weeks was something straight out of fiction.  A friend of mine suggested I chronologically detail recent events since, well, they do have a Law&Order-like feel to them.

To re-cap from previous blog entries, it was February 19 when I had a successful neurosurgery and began my recovery as best as a working mother of two could possibly hope for; the tumor was benign, but I had definitely fooled myself thinking I'd be up and around sooner.  On March 26, I publicly announced that I was leaving my position at BU and moving back to Virginia.  Then, on April 7, I didn't know it yet, but I was about to start a journey like no other.

On April 7, I had a blood pressure reading of 144/205 and knew I had to go to urgent care (which quickly became staying in the ER until about 1am).  Although they cleared me for any cardiac/pulmonary issues, they did tell me that since I was still complaining of breast/chest pain and that there was an inconclusive reading on one of the x-rays, I should follow-up with my primary care physician sooner than later.

The follow-up appointment on April 9 focused on a "baby" blood-pressure medication protocol, but also put more immediacy on rescheduling an annual exam with my OB/GYN that I had missed back in August when I had viral meningitis (something I assure you is far worse than a pap smear).  We were in Virginia (April 17-22) to celebrate Easter and to check housing options in Fredericksburg as well as show the kids their new schools.  We had a great time and being there made me feel good about our decision to move. I felt like someone dumped a Gatorade-sized bucket of iced cold water on me when on April 24, my OB/GYN discovered a lump in my right breast.

I was scheduled for a mammogram, ultrasound, and other tests on May 1 which confirmed that the lump was in fact solid, not something they could instantly rule out as benign.  I knew something was up because I was taken in and out of a lot of rooms, underwent a lot of tests, and then was asked, "Do you have any other plans for the day?"  Why yes, I do.  I want to return to Boston to say good-bye to my students, I have Red Sox tickets to pass off to a friend and, we have a couple of houses to get on the market.  How was I going to fit these interfering, albeit wonderful "we are all about the boob" doctors into my life?  So, here's the play-by-play:

On May 7, my mother-in-law's house went on the market in Pittsburgh.
On May 8, our house was professionally cleaned while I underwent various biopsy procedures.  I was then told it was likely the mass was cancerous.  I went to a hotel with my mom.
On May 9, Steve and his siblings received multiple offers on the house in Pittsburgh, we got our house on the market and had requests for showings within minutes.  I went back to the hotel with my mom.
On May 10, Anna turned 3 years old!  Jack went to his tee-ball game and Anna had a great birthday party.  Roughly 7 showings occurred at our house.  Mom and I should have just bought the hotel.
On May 11, Mother's Day and I ate my favorite bagel in the world.  We accepted an offer on our house.
On May 13, I received official confirmation that I have breast cancer.

Today, Steve and I met with our informative and supportive surgical oncologist team.  We left with visuals, outlines, and resources to help us best understand my diagnosis.  I have Stage I Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - HER2 positive.  I will have a lumpectomy on June 2 proceeded by a year's worth of chemotherapy, radiation, and various medications.  I am sad, I am disappointed, I am angry, but I know that what's important to remember is that we left our doctor's office with treatment options.

It's going to be a tough road, but at least I have a road to travel.  Be kind to one another.