Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mission Impossible

My mission, if I chose to accept it (and I did), was to make 7 meals and a batch of cookies in one afternoon.  I almost was successful!  What I did do, was make 6 meals and the cookie dough Saturday afternoon.  While I was one meal (and the actual baking of the cookies) short, I thought it was a very productive afternoon!  Here's what I made:

- Chicken enchiladas
- Salsbury steaks
- Beef Pot Pie
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Leftover Roast Beef casserole
- Deep Dish Pizza (this was supper last night!)
- and the dough for my Mom's spectacular chocolate chip cookies!

The Leftover Roast Beef casserole and the Chicken Enchiladas are in the fridge for tonight's and tomorrow night's suppers. The rest of the dinners have all been put in the freezer for later this week and weekend!  I feel so prepared, so ready for the week now! Plus, almost all of the dinners (not the cookies) are figure-friendly (low-fat)  meals!   However, I don't think I could do this every Saturday.  It was a lot of work!  I was "pooped" when it was all over!  Wow!  That's why one of the intended dinners had to wait until today. 

This morning, I made Banana-Chocolate Chip Pancakes and turkey sausages for brunch.  Molly and I decided they were "all that!" 
This also, a figure-friendly meal!  Yahoo!

After getting my tummy full on pancakes and sausage, I made the final meal in my Mission Impossible project. I call it Barbara's Alternative Mac & Cheese with Ham added.  Yep. That's kind of a long name but it's all I could come up with at the time.  It is named after a co-worker who brought it to me when I was recovering from surgery last month.  I LOVE it and there is spinach hidden inside so Dennis gets his vegies...Sshh...don't tell him! 
Doesn't it look yummy!  And, it hasn't even been baked yet!  Can't wait! 

Then I baked the cookies!  As I mentioned earlier, this is my mom's yummy recipe and for some reason, they come out like hers only about fifty percent of the time.  This time, they came out perfect!  YES!
So, have you all started your Christmas shopping yet?  I have a very small start thanks to a whole lot of school fundraisers of co-worker's kids (and my own!)  I figure "Well, I want to support them and I have to Christmas shop anyway..."  This is how I decided to take care of some of those little gifts for people I never know what to give! 

Another thing that has me more excited about Christmas shopping is my Scribbless list.  If you are a list maker, you need to check this out!  It is a great website for making, organizing and accessing your lists!  "And you can find it on the World Wide Web".  (I just had to say that....I listen to a show on the radio and the host always says that....makes me laugh!) 

Okay...a few more cancer ramblings.  For the record, I think that cancer bites.  A friend from college designed a t-shirt for the school that she teaches at.  She was good enough to send me one!

It sums up my feelings about the subject in two words.  Period.  Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a woman who had battled pancreatic cancer for about four years.  I was reminded, once again, how many truly wonderful people are stolen from us thanks to this awful disease. 

My friend, Ann, asked me a week or so ago "How is it (my cancer diagnosis and everything since) with my soul?"  Wow...that is a deep question and really got me thinking.  This question was a result of all of my thoughts, observations and memories  I wrote about in my lost blog entry.  After some thought, I decided that all in all, it is well with my soul.  I am okay...even though I think that I could have been provided more and better support from my professional care givers at the time, I am okay with it now.  My last surgery will be a month from today. It will be the last step in my breast reconstruction and I'm hoping - NOW - I will be able to really put this behind me.  (By the way, four surgeries in 14 months is something I'd like to forget.)  However, while it is all well with my soul, my soul is not okay with the knowledge that there are women who are being diagnosed every day and who might not be getting the support they need.  I was fortunate to have the support of family and friends.  What about those women who might not have that?  My heart hurts for them. 

So, while I can't change the world, I do hope to be able to do something in MY little world....starting with our local hospital.  I don't have a plan (wow!  that's a first) but God does.  Quoting my pastor from church this morning (who was quoting someone else) "God does not call the equipped. He equips the called."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cancer ramblings....

It's been awhile...I know....and it was not my intention to take so much time.  While I felt like I had so much to write about, I also felt like I had nothing to write about.  I became overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" I wanted to say!  This past week, I received an email from the Susan G Koman Foundation.  In the email, it linked to a study done by the Cancer Support Community's Research and Training Institute. The study showed that women diagnosed with breast cancer felt that their social and emotional issues were not adequately addressed by the professionals who treated them.  Wow!  A flood of emotions came rushing back to me! 

On September 28, 2010, my doctor from the breast care center that I had been going to for my annual mammograms for several years delivered the news that I had breast cancer.  Due to the nature of it, she recommended a double mastectomy.  She asked if I had a surgeon in mind to do the surgery.  I did and that was the last time I talked to her.  I was passed off to my surgeon who performed the surgery on October 14th.  After my follow-up appointment with him, I was passed off to an oncologist. And, then after a year's time, on to a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction.  Each time, I felt like I was starting all over again; telling my story, giving details that I felt they should already know, and feeling like the whole process was very disconnected. 

This study described a Survivorship Care Plan (SCP) that is a tool that was introduced in 2005 and recommended for all people diagnosed with cancer.  However, in a study of 1,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 90% never had an SCP.  Plus, 87% of women diagnosed with breast cancer described experiencing moderate to severe social and emotional distress after their diagnosis, surgery and during treatment.  I was not given an SCP but I have no doubt in mind that much of the depression and emotional distress that I experienced after my mastectomy and during the weeks to follow could have been eliminated had I been given one!

While in the hospital after my mastectomy, I was flooded with love and support from family and friends.  I'm sure that is what got me through those days of recovery during the hospital stay.   While the nurses and my surgeon did a fine job of taking care of my physical needs while in the hospital and of course, I was asked the question "how are you?", no one really came to talk to me about how I was doing.  I left the hospital feeling scared about the future and physically mutilated.

I remember on our way home from the hospital, we stopped at the pharmacy so Dennis could run in and get the pain meds and anti-biotics that were prescribed to me.  I called my mom to tell her I was on my way home.  The minute I heard her voice, I broke down.  I recall saying "I have no idea why I am crying."  And she said, "I feel violated."  That was it.  I felt violated and I was completely unprepared for these feelings.  After I got home that day, if I was not sleeping, I was crying. 

One of the main reasons I think I was unprepared for these feelings is that I never thought I had any kind of attachment to my breasts.  The minute I received the news that cancer was found in them, I wanted them gone.  So why, after they were gone, did I miss them so much?  I was not ready for how I would look and I was not ready for drain bulbs to be hanging out of me for two weeks.  I was not ready to spend the next month on the phone daily just trying to get answers....when do I need to see the doctor for a follow -up visit (yep - BIG suggestion for anyone having any kind of surgery...don't leave the hospital without a follow-up appointment scheduled with your surgeon!), when can my drain bulbs come out, when will I get my results, when do I see the oncologist, do I need treatments, and on and on.  Phone calls were all made to a number of different receptionists and nurses.   It would have been divine to have one person - who knows the process - who I could call to get answers and to just generally talk with. 

My thoughts have been going back frequently to those days, asking myself how things could have gone better. What could have been done to decrease the social, physical and emotional distress at the time of diagnosis, surgery and the months following?  Why aren't women who are diagnosed with breast cancer being offered the Survivorship Care Plan?  While I was somewhat relieved to hear I wasn't alone in my experiences, I was also very saddened to hear that it is common.  I don't want anyone to experience what I did.  So, right now I am brainstorming ideas on what I can do?  I feel that my past experiences should be able to help women diagnosed in the future. 

More later.....