The Perks of Breast Cancer and Implants!

 Come on, there had to be some benefits.

It’s going up to about 97 degrees today.  And while I still can’t swim, thanks to some LINGERING hysterectomy healing… I had an “AHA!” moment as I got dressed today.

There are these adorable spaghetti strapped camisole tops.  You know them, the ones that have the shelf bra that couldn’t hold a damn thing, so you keep wearing a bra under it, and then you wear another top over it to hide the straps, ending up hotter than you were to begin with?  I see girls and women with them all the time.  I have about 6 in my closet.  All colors.

Today as I got dressed the thought occurred to me to try it without a bra.  Just to see.

Well I’ll be damned.  There is a benefit to fake size A boobs.  I can hop, skip and jump.  They don’t move.  No bra required.  No nipples makes for even less worry.

I will be much less sweaty than my friends today. 

See – even cancer can have a bright side! 

Smile 12 a
Smile 12 a (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer vacation begins…eventually!

Our Vegetable Garden

Summer Vacation began today.  Yesterday was the last day of school for Meghan and I until early September.

 I love this time of year, where I always say I get to have one full-time job (stay at home mom) instead of two.  Well, maybe it’s two full-time jobs – medical manager of all things Cowden’s related, AND stay at home mom…  But either way it is a break from the responsibilities of work, with all the benefits of still receiving a paycheck. 

Meghan’s report card was beautiful.  She makes us so proud.  We talked all about the end of third grade and the beginning of fourth.  We ordered a new backpack (Have to order early if you want that special GREEN!) 

Then she asked what we would do today, to start off our first real vacation day. I don’t think she was surprised when I answered with, “A doctor’s appointment and an MRI.” The opening in a GE Signa MRI machine

So this morning I got up at regular time.  I watered the vegetables in our garden which is growing so beautifully this year.  I made sure Meghan was dressed, and the dogs were crated.  And we walked out the door at exactly the same time we caught the school bus every morning for 10 months.

 We made it to NYC in time for my surgical follow-up.  I have officially had all restrictions lifted, although the chronic bleeding continues!  I was told not to worry, and it should be gone in another 4 weeks.  Delightful. 

Then, we walked a few blocks to the knee MRI.  She was in the tube at 10:02, with only 0.25mg of xanax to take the edge off, and lasted in there until 12:05.  unbelievable.  They told me they had 5,000 images.  I left with a CD in hand, and a promise there would be a report by Monday.
We got home in time for a quick lunch.  I managed to get the CD of the MRI, combined with a cover letter, in an envelope to Dr. K, head of orthopedics at Children’s in Boston, and sent it off in the mail.  Some time next week he will call to tell us if the date for surgery will be sooner… or later. 

We made it to a friend’s pool for a few fun hours, to try to salvage the day.  She went to bed exhausted, and soon I will too.  I hope this isn’t an indicator of what summer holds, because I am striving for a serious amount of doctor free days.  More time with the kid, the pool, and the tomato plants. 

Come on summer… be good to us.  We need you!

A story of two Meghans…

 The cutie in this picture is my cousin Meghan.  She was born in 1985 when I was just in the 6th grade.  She was the first child I ever babysat for.  She was my buddy.

 She was diagnosed with Leukemia around her second birthday. 

Remissions and relapses, bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy followed the next 4 years, but a cure was not to be. 

She passed away in 1991 on my 18th birthday. She shaped my life in every way imaginable.  I am a better person because I knew her.  I developed perspective at an early age because I knew the pain of having loved, and lost someone so young.

 She is our guardian angel – ever-present in our lives. 

Disney 2009

My daughter Meghan was born in 2003.  I asked my aunt and uncle for permission to use the name.  They were pleased, but not surprised.  Meghan was a huge part of my life, and I wanted my daughter to know her name was carefully chosen, and she was named for one of the strongest little people I ever knew. 

My daughter  knows all about “Angel Meghan,” and how she watches over us.  She knows all about childhood cancer and its gold ribbons.  She happily worked to raise money for a school project this year, for a “great” cause.  She knows cancer took young Meghan’s life.

Gold ribbon
Gold ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She also knows her Mom and her Grandma had cancer, and they are doing just fine.  She knows the battles can be won, but they seem to be all around us.

  What she doesn’t know, is where she fits in.  She lives a life where at a young age, cancer and its risks have become a real part of her life. 

She knows she fights every day, to get through her own life with a rare genetic disorder. 

 What I find interesting is she is seeking a symbol.  She wants something to wear to show the world what she is contending with. She was able to express it to me, and while I was amazed, it made sense.     

English: pink ribbon
English: pink ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 My husband bought me a Pandora necklace with pink ribbons after the cancer diagnosis.  I have a bracelet I wear.  They give me strength, as silly as it may sound.  A sense of focus.  A reason to stay on top of things.    

She needs something.  And it isn’t easy to find.  It’s not a blue ribbon, but a denim one representing genetic disorders.  I think I will have something made.  Anything to help her find her identity. 

She is special.  She is named for someone special.  She is unique.  She is smart.  She is funny.  She is friendly, and wise.  She is a lot like my cousin who came years before her.  She is tenacious and strong-willed.  She is finding her identity.  She is growing up.  She knows Cowden’s Syndrome will never define her, but she wants to feel empowered.  I can’t  blame her.

 Two special Meghans. 

One shaped my heart as a young girl. 

 The other daily inspires me to be a better human. 

I am truly blessed.

Cowden’s Syndrome – The Elephant in the room

Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiomfor an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.- Wikipedia

English: Elephant in the room
English: Elephant in the room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cowden’s Syndrome is the “Elephant in the room.”  It is always there.  It is never going away.  Yet, most people – even immediate family- don’t want to discuss it because it makes them worried or uncomfortable.  They would prefer to justify to themselves that your constant worry, and never-ending list of appointments are nothing more than paranoia and nonsense.

 The “elephant” made its way into our house last fall.  It’s not leaving.  So we are working on respecting it, and treating it as the oversized house guest it is.  Feed it too much and it will become more overpowering in its sheer volume.  Ignore it and forget about it, and well… a hungry elephant can do some damage. 

What brought me to all this metaphorical thinking today?  It is likely to sound quite silly, but it was an earache

Now, granted it was not an ordinary earache, the whole side of my head hurt, and still does.  But the point is prior to my diagnosis, prior to my knowledge of Cowden’s Syndrome, it would have been “just an earache.” 

Instead, I woke this morning in terrible pain.  I was dizzy and uncomfortable.  I immediately started remembering all the times I was dizzy or out of sorts this week.  I have no fever, no cold, no signs of infection, no real reason for this pain.  Yet, it was bad enough for me to drive to the Urgent Care center at 9 on a Saturday morning

I waited for the doctor nervously.  I recounted my symptoms to him.  Here they know nothing of Cowden’s or chronic issues – they simply treat what they see.  So, he looked in my ear and said, “It’s not red, there is no swelling, and no sign of infection.”

 My heart sank. 

That should have been very good news.  He was sending me with a script for ear drops “just in case,” but not to worry – “there is no problem.”

 No problem except, my ear feels like it is going to explode, the whole side of my head is sore, and all I can think about is “What if there is a tumor in there?”

 This is not a rational response to an earache.  I know it isn’t.  I am also pretty sure there is no tumor anywhere near my ear.  But, this is how Cowden’s Syndrome can change your perception of reality, heighten your anxiety, and keep your worries hopping. 

If the doctor had told me I had an ear infection I would have been thrilled.  Instead I have unexplained ear pain, dizziness, and worry. 

I am sure it will get better in a few days.  That’s what I keep telling myself. But what if it doesn’t?  

Cowden’s Syndrome – the elephant in the room.

6 Months…

June 18, 2012

As I was receiving the news of my grandfather’s passing, I mean within moments, my cell phone rang.

It was the endocrinologist we had seen the Thursday prior about the thyroid.  It was hard to wrap my head around the conversation at first, but I was struck by the reality that this is it.  This is how life will always be.  Life won’t stop for the doctor’s appointments and test results, and the appointments won’t stop for life.  So somehow, we need to find a way for them to get along, and exist – simultaneously.

The thyroid sonogram had been done on the 14th.  When we left him that day he was comfortable waiting a year for the ultrasound, and just seeing her in 6 months.  He told me he would call me after he compared her November 2011 sonogram CD to the new one.

So I stopped in the hallway at my school.  Tears were still streaming down my face as I composed myself enough to talk to the doctor.

He reviewed the older images and compared them.  There are a lot more nodules, he didn’t even give me a number, and most of them are very small.  However, there is one a bit bigger than all the others.  He would like to keep an eye on that one.

Instead of a sonogram in a year, we got bumped back to 6 months.  Doctors seem to like to treat us, patients with Cowden’s Syndrome, in 6 month increments.  Now if I can just figure out a way to synchronize them so we are not ALWAYS scanning something…

So, the last time we were there they told us to prepare.  She will have thyroid cancer I was told.  Until then, they will just watch.  December 27th it is then.

Even as I continue to wonder if all these thyroid nodules couldn’t be provoking this puberty, setting off a way too early growth cycle, I knew I wasn’t going to get an answer.  At least not today.

So, I closed the phone and dried my eyes.  One day the thyroid will turn, but it’s not today.  Not now.  At least we can have the week to bury Grandpa in peace.


Grandpa, …, passed away on Monday, June 18, 2012. . Born in …Grandpa lived in … for many years before moving to …7 years ago. He worked as a lineman and foreman for PSE&G for many years prior to his retirement. He was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army during WWII and the Korean War and lifetime member of the American Legion. Beloved husband of 60 years to Grandma. Devoted father to…and his wife … and … and his wife …. Cherished grandfather to 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He was also survived by many loving nieces,nephews and friends.


The above is a snapshot of my Grandfather’s obituary.  I removed the names and locations, because really – they don’t matter.  He was a kind and gentle man, loved by everyone.  Classy, and wise – funny, and easy to talk to.

My daughter proved to me again this week, that although we have Cowden’s Syndrome, it does not have us.  It does not define who we are.

She is 8, turning 9 in a few short months.  This was her first funeral.  She went to the funeral parlor with me, alone.  And then to the funeral with our family.  She acted as one of the honorary pallbearers.  She cried, she smiled, she focused, she hugged all the right people at all the right times.  She got through the service, and hours into lunch before we handed over her Itouch – she never even asked.

My Grandfather called her “Sapphire.”  He knew she was special.  He made sure she had a sapphire necklace.  Her eyes lit up whenever they were together.  He will be sorely missed by all of us.

De :fr:Image:SaphirSynthetique.jpg Categoría:M...
De :fr:Image:SaphirSynthetique.jpg Categoría:Minería (imagen) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again – I am reminded of how precious life is.  And once again, I am humbled and proud to be her mother.




Father’s Day

Some days it’s not about Cowden’s Syndrome, or tumors, or doctor’s appointments.  Some days life just is about life.

Father’s Day.  A day to celebrate the fathers in our lives.

My husband is the best dad in the world.  I mean it.  And he is a pretty amazing husband too.  There aren’t enough words to describe how lucky I am.

My Dad, tries his best.  He and my mom divorced when I was 5.  He has struggled with his own life through the years, but we have stayed in contact.  He does the best he can.

My stepdad, married my mom 24 years ago.  He inherited 2 bratty teenagers and has loved us as his own from the beginning.  He has put us through college, paid for 2 weddings, fixed houses, and been there through it all.

My Pop, my mom’s Dad is 92.  A WWII veteran, and a retired firefighter, he is amazing.  He and Grandma still live on the second floor of their own house.  We lived in their house for 15 years, and they became a second set of parents for us. Now they are Great Grandparents.  They pick up my daughter on half days, and love spending time with her.

Today my heart is heavy though. My stepdad’s father is suffering.  When his son married my mom 24 years ago, they had no grandchildren.  They didn’t expect to start out inheriting two teenagers, but they did.  And they handled it gracefully.  Over time Grandpa came to love us in a very special way.  He is especially attached to my daughter, who he calls “Sapphire.”  He even made sure she had a special sapphire necklace to always remember her name.  He has been brave his whole life and has fought cancer in more places than I can count.  He has been in the hospital for a month now, and this is it.  He is ready.  He has had last rites.  He has asked his boys to take care of their mom.  He has told God he is ready to go.  So we wait.

Today we remember the fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers that have touched our lives.  We hug some, and we miss some.  We acknowledge their impact on us.

And today in my house, we whisper constantly a prayer to God.  Today it’s not about test results or surgeries.  Today we ask that He be merciful.  Grandpa is ready to rest…

“I know…”

Kids know.  They have instincts adults have lost.  Never underestimate the power of a kid.  (This was written a few weeks ago, and I am just now getting to adding it here.)

I know that my daughter is a smart girl.  I know that she is in so many ways wise beyond her years, but I never cease to be amazed by her instincts, and her ability to read people – especially her family.

She knows that we share a genetic link and that we both have the same – Cowden’s Syndrome.  She knows that we tend to grow things.  She knows about her own AVMs, and that she has some thyroid “bumps” we are watching.

I am guarded but honest when I speak to her.  It is important when you have a child who is sick so often that they trust you.  I learned there is no way to lie to her and keep her trust.  So, I answer the questions she asks, using as few words as possible, and I always stay honest.

That is why I was floored a few nights ago.  She has been having a hard time with her knee again.  In the middle of a not so common, depressive episode she complained for a while about her knee, and the permanence of the pain and swelling.  She was frustrated, and she is allowed – so I held her as she cried.

What floored me was what happened next.  She grabbed onto my shoulders and looked me in the eye.  She said “I know…”  I said, “What do you know?”  She said, “Cowden’s makes it more likely for us to get cancer.  You had cancer once and you were ok.  Are you going to have it again?  Is that why you had your other surgery (the hysterectomy?)”

I swallowed hard, intent to stay focused.  “I don’t know,” I told her.  “I don’t think so.  We just took this stuff out to be safe.”

She looked at me with those tired eyes.  She looked at me for a long time.  She held me tightly and said, “I don’t like leaving you ever – even for school.”

Holding her as tightly as I could, I said, “I know…”

“Every little thing gonna be all right…”

Bob Marley – “Three Little Birds

“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou:”

Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don’t worry!”
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing” – I won’t worry!
“‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right” – I won’t worry!
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing, oh no!
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Cocktail umbrella top
Cocktail umbrella top (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can imagine sitting on the deck by the pool.  Oh, wait – the surgeon hasn’t cleared me to swim.  And, I still need a bathing suit.

The cute tankini I bought was vetoed by my husband who thinks it makes my boobs look fake.  LMAO at the irony of that!

Well, at least I can imagine sitting on the deck with a strong cocktail in hand… working to convince myself that every little thing is gonna be all right.

My daughter’s much awaited appointment was today.  The sonogram was at 1, and the doctor at 3:30.

The sonogram was thorough – took almost 45 minutes.  The doctor reviewed the images, but could not give us a clear decision until he uploads the CD  I brought with last September’s sonogram images for comparison.  

For right now he said things looked good.   There are MANY nodules, but most are smaller than one cm.  He is content to keep watching every 6 months if he doesn’t find anything on comparison that warrants a closer look.  Somewhere this has to be good news, although I am always afraid to get too relaxed, so I am waiting for the phone call.

What boggled me was how laid back he was about the puberty.  He told me even though she won’t turn 9 until August and she has been developing a good 6 months, that it is not too early.   He said to leave it alone.  Apparently she and I are the only 2 concerned.  I have been super upbeat about all the changes to her, but I can’t help it.  In my belly it just feels WRONG.

Maybe I am just too used to worrying.  And there are reasons for that.  Its seems to be all we do.  Sometimes good news gets to be harder to process because it comes so rarely.  Sometimes it is almost odd to hear that things are “normal.”

So, we will wait for the phone call to confirm.  Then we will table the thyroid issue till December.

Next up for my girl, MRI/MRA of her knee. June 28th.

For me, well, I need to find a dermatologist, someone to screen my kidneys, someone to follow the tumor on my spleen… oh, and I need a bathing suit.  According to my dear husband, one that doesn’t make my (fake) boobs look fake.

And, a LARGE cocktail with a cute little umbrella, and some Bob Marley in the background…

Every little thing IS gonna be all right!

Ready or not!

Clocks (Photo credit: Leo Reynolds)

Time is a strange phenomenon.

It just doesn’t stop.  There are days we would like it to go slower, and days we would like it to go MUCH faster. 

There are days we would like to relive, and those we would gladly forget.   But really, we have no control at all.

60 seconds in a minute 

60 minutes in an hour 

24 hours in a day 

7 days in a week 

52 weeks in a year  

I find there are  occasions when I would like time to hurry up.  When I am waiting for my daughter to get out of surgery is the best example.  Time can’t go fast enough.  When I am waiting on pathology results, for any of us – it always seems like forever.

Hourglass (PSF)
Hourglass (PSF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we were first diagnosed with Cowden’s Syndrome in the fall, the first thing they did was send my daughter for a thyroid sonogram.  Of course it revealed 4 large nodules which we subsequently had biopsied at a hospital no better than a butcher shop. 

As we sought out another opinion, and moved the slides to a much more reputable facility,  an appointment in January found us with a pediatric endocrinologist who actually had some experience with Cowden’s.  He told us he had reviewed the slides and noted precancerous cells.  He essentially told us our daughter would have thyroid cancer at some point, he just could not say when.  So, he told us to return in 6 months, and we would check again. 

I remember at the time thinking 6 months was an eternity.  I wanted it to be faster.  I wanted reassurance that she was well.  He was insistent that 6 months was appropriate. 

So we made the appointment for June 14th. Now June 14th is tomorrow.  And I think I may need a little more time before I am ready. Things have changed.  Now we have an 8 year old with a developing body, and labs that don’t match.  Now the reality that there could be a malignancy on her thyroid, actually helping cause some of these problems is making me want to vomit. 

                                                                                                                                             If we could slow things down… just a little? English: A stopwatch is a hand-held timepiece ...

 15 hours from now we will be sitting for the thyroid sonogram, and 17 hours from now we will be discussing the results with the doctor.

 I am trying to prepare myself for whatever he has to say.  I have to hope for answers, for her sake. 

 Even if they aren’t the ones I want. Too many open questions.  Too much time had passed. 

Ready or not, here we come!