meet treatment trunk

I started off my new normal - the normal of cancer - by feeling lucky... lucky to be in the care of wonderful doctors that I trust implicitly, lucky for insurance (even though they continue to disappoint), lucky for Yale, for everything. But most of all, I am lucky to have such incredible support from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

 A few months ago, before one of my treatments, I was speaking with my oncologist, Dr. Silber, about why she became an oncologist, which led to a discussion about the disparity within the healthcare system. She spoke about how nice it was to see all the support I’d received and how great it has been to get to know my family so well, as they accompanied me to every appointment. Now, when I go in for a routine scan or check-up, the entire medical staff - receptionists to doctors - seem disappointed if I am alone.

Dr. Silber told me this network of support is an anomaly, that I am not the norm. The majority of her patients do not have anyone to support them—at treatment or at home. She said that often their concern is about their pets... who will take them if treatment doesn’t work? They are truly alone in the hell that is cancer, navigating it on their own with little to no resources outside of the hospital. This is why Dr. Silber does what she does. It is her mission to change this epidemic... to support and educate women before they become her patient. She takes her knowledge to community centers and health care offices around the state of CT, so that all women have access to the appropriate resources so that they can protect and advocate for themselves. This struck a chord with me.

I had gone to Smilow alone that day. After my appointment, I waited in the lobby of the infusion lab for my name to be called. When I am riding solo, I like to look around. It is amazing all the things that I missed when I was surrounded by people during treatment. An older woman came and sat beside me while her daughter occupied the chair across from us. I started talking with her... she asked me how her daughter would feel, if she would lose her hair, and how she was going to get to treatment, worried it would be difficult as she needed to take the bus on most days. I looked at the daughter and asked how she was. She pulled down the collar of her shirt to reveal her newly placed port. It was her first day of treatment. She asked the same questions her mother did, and—acknowledging that I am not a doctor—I asked what drugs they had her on... that perhaps they were the same as mine and I could lend some sort of guidance. She said she didn’t know. In fact, she didn’t know the type of cancer she had... she was terrified that she had cancer, that was all. I put myself in her shoes. I remember that day vividly. The eerie calm that fell over me, knowing I was proactively fighting the beast that had burglarized my body. I was equipped though. I had an arsenal of people to help me ask the questions I was too scared to... to listen when I couldn’t... and to hold my hand and ensure me I was not alone. This woman and her mother were alone. It was obvious to me that the fright she was experiencing was not only because of the cancer, but also of the unknown. I wanted to do something. I had to do something.

Over a year ago, Lindsay and I started a company called Treatment Trunk. It has been through an evolution… but that day at Smilow solidified it all. Treatment Trunk is a gift box service for women undergoing treatment for cancer. It is entirely non-profit and funded by donations from people and companies alike. With a donation you can receive a bracelet in support of the cause, or send a hand-packed gift box to someone curated to fit their current phase of treatment and interests. With your purchase, a box will be gifted and delivered to patients undergoing treatment in the many underserved communities around CT. We have teamed up with Dr. Silber to help identify those locations that need it most. We want everyone to know they are not alone and that we have their back. Our website—while currently in its infancy—will have blog posts from myself and Lyn, other patients and caregivers, as well as interviews with experts in the field. 

Treatment Trunk will make its first donation to Smilow this week. We are gifting bracelets to women on their first day of treatment, letting them know of the cause and of our support. This company has been a labor of love for quite some time now, back when my head was shaved so i hadn’t yet realized my hair was falling out. It has input from many who have been down this path themselves, and from those who helped me navigate mine. 

The site is and the Go Fund Me campaign is up and running. Whether you choose to support with a high-five, a donation, or by buying a bracelet, we appreciate all you have done for me and my family over the last two years. This entire project is inspired by you all. It is our turn now to give back. Let’s get to work! 

xo Becky (+ Lindsay)

Hello again!

Of course I want to start this as I did most entries in my diary as a kid... “Dear Journal, sorry I haven’t written in so long...” and then some excuse as if this inanimate object was sitting there, longing for my eloquent words. Ha. I don’t think I was ever honest in those either... just in case my sisters got a hold of it. Thankfully, that has changed. 

This part of the journey is one that has carried tons of apprehension for me - the “after” (sort of). I’m still in treatment, but I am okay. Life has returned to some sort of normal and that is great. Being able to be busy is a weird luxury and serves the purpose as a wonderful distraction, allowing me to forget the reality of life for a bit. It has given me more time with my kids, more energy to do what I missed so much last winter... but it has hindered the therapy that the quiet used to provide for me. I used to journal all the time... now I jot in my phone when I can. This writing has been a savior. The honesty of writing on here is what I have needed to process the nonsense of cancer. The unfairness, the struggle...that is all easier when I reach out to you all. So, thank you. 

Okay, treatment... I am currently in my last stretch of infusions. With HER-2+ breast cancer, the biotherapy Herceptin is a saving grace. It is about all they have to trust that any remaining cancer cells are not able to establish a blood supply. I receive a half-hour infusion every three weeks. It is the same process as chemo, an infusion via the port down at Smilow, only it doesn’t carry the same side effects. I am not nauseous. I still have my hair. (Holy shit, post-chemo hair is another thing entirely. Lol is all I can say). It should not exhaust me, nor should it be the direct cause of exhaustion, but damn... it takes it all out of me. Perhaps it’s simply the mental toll it takes on me, the reminder of what infusions were like a year ago. Walking into Smilow, I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Who knows, but it drains me for a couple of days. 

I am not naive to assume that everyone has the same experience with cancer. I know that everyone processes it in their own way. I often think of how I cope... the Bucha way - humor, volume, laughter, all of our usual defense mechanisms. What would it be like if that wasn’t the case? What if we still lived in lonely Turlock, CA (where I am convinced this shit came from... another story entirely) and all I had was a good book and Bubble Guppies? Fortunately for me, my treatments were something I looked forward to - a good social scene with friends, family, and lots of laughter. It was also often the only time I ever had any interaction with people outside of my home. 

I don’t know what I expected. Why was I nervous? I had done this [seemingly] a thousand times before. Perhaps I thought my family and friends of chemo past were just a shield to the heinous reality of treatment. Here I am, over a year later and drastically different, both mentally and physically... and I am still thinking that this appointment, all by my lonesome, held such horrific potential. 

I saw all the usual partners. Everyone asked where my entourage was and I explained that I felt it was time that I experienced it by myself. If anything, it was a time to reflect. A time to look past the curtain around my chair, to hear what others are talking about. My first thought was, “holy shit, they must have hated us Buchas”. I never realized just how many people were sleeping. Happily, not many were alone (for some reason that makes me sad. But in truth, most that were alone were at peace or working, looking quite comfortable being alone.) I saw the way support works on a different side... it’s silent and present but not distracting. For me, the constant background noise was a very warm welcome. I wanted to laugh at why I was there... I wanted to entertain. On this day, I didn’t have to... and not that I ever felt I was entertaining, but it was bringing people “home”. Bringing people to my realm, to the paradigm within which my life was filtered. Now, it’s a mental game more than it is a physical challenge (shout out to Double Dare). It’s the ebb and flow of cancer and nothing.... every three weeks, and perhaps a couple of other appointments scattered throughout... it’s that.

As I sat in the waiting room for treatment...alone... a young woman entered. She was in full makeup, very nicely dressed, clearly a business woman in town on business. (Regina Felangey? I think you left your Filofax in Conference Room B.) Her heels alone made me chuckle a bit to myself - you don’t see many of those in this room. I listened as she signed in... she was an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Interesting. My mind immediately went to this time last year, when her employer denied me the treatment I so desperately needed. When this denial brought my blood count to the lowest threshold allowed to receive treatment. I started to boil a bit, but calmed myself with the reassurance that it was not her fault. She walked by my seat and bumped my leg with her bag. I mean, her giant bag bumped my leg and knocked it off the other one as I was sitting cross-legged. I was pissed. Not only did she deny me my treatment, but she just bumped me with ZERO acknowledgement!? GASP! How dare she!! I almost said something. (Jill has started calling me Larry, as in Larry David... saying post-diagnosis Becky is like Larry David. I was unfiltered before, but now it’s different. Social norms no longer come into play if I have something to say. I tend to release my inner dialogue for the rest of the world to digest. I just don’t care.) So I was going to let her have it... was going to ask what gives her the right to walk into my infusion lobby with no concern for the patients who need to be there. Just then I made eye contact with the gentleman sitting directly across from me. He laughed, rolled his eyes, and got it. He understood. That was enough - he was on my side in Bag-Gate and that’s all that mattered. We both giggled some more, burned her soul with our eyes, and it was back to the game on my phone.

After my deep breath, treatment was easy and uneventful as it usually is. It went by quickly which didn’t really surprise me. Tomorrow I go on to my 13th round of Herceptin, four more left after that, then one surgery, then...done. Right now I am planning on going alone. Darn it, I should have called earlier to get a massage. (They literally give you those, though I have always forgotten to sign up. Doh!)

xo b 

Here I am, one year in.

It was one year ago that I found out I had cancer. It was a Thursday, and Chris and I were leaving our driveway en route to a friend’s house to pick up Matilda when a call came in from New Haven. It was Dr. Patel, the young guy who did my biopsy that Monday and who would eventually tell me my tumor was gone four months later. He started to speak, “Unfortunately....” that was really all I heard. I broke down. I cried. I was terrified. But I wasn’t shocked. I had a feeling this was coming. Not because of my hypochondria and assumption I’d have cancer at some point.... but because I prepared myself. Leading up to my biopsy, I had the entire spectrum of emotion. I didn’t sleep. I tried to numb the pain with wine. I watched Fixer Upper, all seasons. I barely functioned. The day of the biopsy is a blur. Lindsay tells me she has never seen me that way. I had no strength, no will, no smile. Then I woke up the next day. I went through the two outcomes. Either I had cancer, or I didn’t. I figured it is much better to be completely relieved than utterly shocked and devastated. If I prepped for the cancer, it wouldn’t be as hard to hear the words. Right? No. Those words are never easy. They are sharp and direct and fucking serious. But because I had processed my worry and response in advance, there was part of me that was relieved. “Okay, I have cancer. I thought this would happen. Now what?” The waiting was also over. That really was the worst part. 

Chris gave me rational strength, to look at it for what it was. In fact, during that dreaded waiting period, when I was emotional and panicked, he laid it out for me; he said there was a road ahead of us — it might be bumpy, lots of twists and turns, or it could be straight — either way, we’re taking that road. That was it, we had no choice. That lack of an alternative has stayed with me this entire time. It’s what drives my positivity. It’s what stops my worry. My mom has always told me not to worry about something until you have to, and jokes that I am always good at finding something to worry about when there is not one. It is different now. There is no alternative, I do what I have to do. It is amazing when you can check your anxiety at the door. Things begin to hurt less. If you told me last summer that once a week I would have an inch long and thick needle slammed into this Ironman-esque thing in my chest... I would think about that needle every day of my life. And that thing under my skin!? It’s like the girl from SmalI Wonder! I’ve never been much into opening up the back of someone like a fuse box. The anticipation would be so bad I would lose sleep over it. Yet once I got the news, once I had a plan, there was only one thing to do. It really is mind over matter. I used to think the IV was the worst part of a c-section... and now I have a preference as to which veins they stick. Another story to show you how debilitating my worry could be... When we were moving to CA from CT four years ago, I was happy to leave our house because it had house centipedes. Lots of them. Then Heather reminded me that central CA has tarantulas. If you don’t think I asked every possible landlord, store owner, server, table-next-to-us-at-dinner, if there were tarantulas.... well, you don’t know me at all. I can worry. 

I remember the initial meeting with Dr. Silber and Dr. Chagpar. Lindsay wrote about it here. It was a long and tiring appointment that reassured me I was in the right place and with the right people. It gave me a plan, a long and really annoying plan. I was told I’d have to get the port like they were telling me to get the mail. Port, okay. Next? I remember feeling so confident in there, family around me, smart doctors, a beautiful hospital, there was absolutely no fear. I was surrounded by support, by comrades, by people and things that were going to fix me. It was hugs all around and off we went to the boutique in the hospital. Lyn and Heather tried on scarves and hats and I started to do the same. I didn’t get the cloth passed my forehead before something changed. It became real. I saw a vision of the person I was about to become. I was alone. I wasn’t dealing with this alone, but it was me who had to deal with it. I had to endure the pain and discomfort we just heard about for three hours. We walked to a vegetarian restaurant near the Yale campus (we had just learned plant-based is best so we weren’t messing around). Students bustled to class, people laughed, drank, enjoyed life. There I was... I was walking but didn’t realize it. I was sitting with my family, chatting and laughing, but I wasn’t present. I was in another reality where I was bald, I was sick, I was in pain, and I had cancer. It surprised me how quickly I felt alone and it took a day or two after that moment to get back to where I needed to be. And then I shaved my head. I maintain that that was the single-most beneficial, productive, and necessary thing I have done throughout this entire process. It gave me my control. It made this time mine. 

Now I sit at my dining room table, reflecting on this last year and wondering where in the hell the time has gone. My plan felt like an eternity. I couldn’t wait for each step, and now almost all have passed. Even though I have 11 more doses and almost a year left of Herceptin, I truly feel like I’m in the final stages. Things are often spoken of in the past now and it’s more about where I am and what is next...not for treatment, but for me. The last two treatments have been great. They are quick and easy — almost too quick actually. My mom, Heather and I hung around the first one for about an hour after my infusion was finished. We pulled the curtain and chatted with my Smilow peeps. It was wonderful to be back. My second was on Wednesday and my dad, myself, and Dr. Silber caught up and mostly spoke about the grotesque situation our country is currently in and how her students are feeling about their school. Then for the infusion we got a private room, usually reserved for those patients who are very sick, and enjoyed treatment - me in a bed, and he in an infusion chair (like a La-Z-Boy). I am tired but have been told that it is more likely due to my children rather than the treatment. Isn’t that a wonderful thing. 

Much love to you all. xo b

Preppin’ the Port

Treatment starts back up tomorrow and I am filled with mixed emotions. It is Herceptin and Perjeta, my two trusty biotherapies that I received with infusions every three weeks back in the beginning. Wow, way back then. It really seems like forever ago. Forever ago that I was a month or two into chemo and not yet feeling the real side effects. Sure, I was tired, I was nauseous, I was sick. But I had fun. I averaged about 3.5, 1000 piece puzzles a week, jamming to my own song, “Everyday I’m puzzlin’ puzzlin’ puzzlin”. Those stopped with the second round of chemo when merely looking at the pieces made my head spin. I believe the last time I puzzled was March 15th, the night before the next round. Craig and Kayleen were over and we teased him for not being as good as the rest of us. At puzzling. Jeez. I really needed to get out, eh? The kids asked to do a puzzle yesterday so we cracked open a new one. As we flipped the pieces, I got a twang of nausea. It wasn’t real, it was a ghost - a ghost of chemo past. Keeping at it, it ended up as it typically did; the kids whining about where things go, me begging them to go play, watch tv, anything so I can get back to puzzlin’ puzzlin’ puzzlin’. 

Many incredible things have happened since the last time I wrote. I have been showered with love from many of the people I adore most in this world. Friend’s birthdays, my birthday, my 20th high school reunion, a wedding for two of the greatest, and oh yes, the icing on the cake, the creme de la creme... my Gettysburg lacrosse team came for a visit. A surprise. My coach - she’s still there, by the way, you may have heard of her...she’s won three National Championships and is pretty much the shit on the street if you know what I’m sayin’. Anywho, Coach picked me up under an “in town for some recruiting” guise and we went over to friend and former teammate Meghan’s house to grab her and get some lunch. Next thing I know, I turn the corner to her kitchen and standing in there, clad in shirts they had made - “Bucha 18, Cancer 0. Nothing stops a Bullet” was over a dozen of my former teammates. They traveled from all over, some having flown in late the night before. It was incredible. I am crying while I write this. I have never felt better than I have battling cancer and that is because of all of you. You sure know how to make someone feel supported, loved, and strong. Thank you. 

I am somewhat relieved to get back to treatment. I was ecstatic when radiation was over. A huge time-sucking, sort of painful, alarmingly damaging drag. That’s radiation. But then I just had to wait for the next step. More waiting. I am relieved that step is here. I need the reminder. After surgery, waiting for radiation, that was intense for me. My body needed a break and my mind did, too. I stopped thinking about treatment, pain, time, and just lived how I once did (only healthier :-)). The problem is — my mind took a break in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Some of the perspective I gained dissipated, especially that from initial diagnosis and immediately thereafter. I became less focused, but also more independent. I didn’t filter life through the cancer on a daily basis. Part of this was knowing - wonderfully knowing - that the worst was behind me. But in the beginning, I wouldn’t have cared. That would have been irrelevant, and frankly a waste of time. I had one job to do and I would do ANYTHING to get it done. Being on the “other” side of it makes that stuff go to the back burner a bit. Willingly, of course. Once you’ve tackled the major obstacle, things start to go back to normal... but you’re not even sure what that is anymore. My normal for 37 years no longer exists. I was sort of stagnant, lost in time somewhere between it all. Do I move on? Do I reflect? Radiation was exactly what I needed to figure it out. A daily task, but more importantly, a daily reminder. This new round of treatment will serve the same purpose. Cancer is not something I regret, or dwell upon, or hold any hostility towards. This is me. It is the most important lesson I’ve ever been taught. Rather, it is the culmination of every lesson I’ve been taught, tested. 

And so with these new steps comes the perspective. “Cancer Becky” returns (she’s a good thing), and I get back in the game. I will always need the perspective I gained last October, and then again in June, and now again on the eve of my second-to-last phase of treatment (one more surgery to go as well). Time to separate the bullshit from what really matters. I know I will continue to lose this every now and then and am thankful for the many people around me that say, “hm, cancer Becky wouldn’t feel that way.” They’re right, Cancer Becky doesn’t sweat the small stuff. I am thankful as well, for the lifetime of scans and tests ahead of me...for the reminder of that perspective you gain when faced with the ultimate test.

As I wrap this up, I’m doing pretty great these days. Feeling is slowly starting to come back which is nice, but also freaky and somewhat painful. My port is once again noticeable (feeling-wise) and can bug me out a bit when I all of a sudden get some sensation from the muscle within which it is bed. I’m convinced one of these days that thing is going to come bursting out of my chest like the water balloon shot out of a sling shot from my family to the Kennedy’s. True story, oops. So Herceptin, the miracle drug that makes my cancer curable, powers up again tomorrow. It is the same process as chemo so I get to return to Dr. Silber and my squad in the infusion lab. I’m sure patients who remember me and my entourage from before will be over the moon to see us back on the beat (sarcasm). I’m not as weak as I was before so things could get a little rowdier than they were in the winter. These drugs shouldn’t come with side effects, thankfully, but carry quite a load when it comes to the heart. Being that I’m not starting off with a perfect model, this concerns me a bit. It will be my thing to worry about, I always need one. I am being monitored closely by my cardiologist, and having echocardiograms after every two or three doses. I remain 100% confident in Smilow, in my doctors, in my treatment. I trust whatever they do is making me better, not worse. Sometimes you just have to weigh the risk and reward, ya know? Anyway... There will be 13 of these treatments... so saddle up, partners.

xo b

Radiation In Use

Cancer free...again! I realize I left some of you hanging by not posting this news sooner. The second surgery went well. It was painful for about a week, as all surgeries are, but it was quickly masked by the residual sensations from my previous one. Or, "the big one" as I have come to call it.  

The surgery was a particularly difficult one for me. I knew they had to go in and get the leftover marker, but I wasn't really certain as to why. I wasn't excited in the way that I was for the big one. This was legitimately just a hurdle, a step in the wrong direction. The morning was somber for all in attendance; me, Chris, Heather, Dad, and Chintz. None of us wanted to be there and the poor resident was bombarded with questions as he explained what the surgery would entail. As I walked out of the room towards the OR, I held back tears of anger, fear, doubt. The last face I saw was my dad. He had tears in eyes and so did I. We all knew this was bullshit. We were all, and still are, vulnerable to what needs to be done.  

It went as expected and thankfully only one lymph node, with marker!, was removed. Chris and I met with Dr. Chagpar for my post-op appointment a week later. She came into the room and immediately apologized - for the surgery, for the protocol, for the controversy around these markers, and mostly for the duress under which I suffered. Chris used this word, "duress", as he spoke to Dr. Chagpar immediately after the surgery. It resonated with her and opened up an honest conversation between us. She explained that they've only started leaving markers in lymph nodes within the last five years. Most of the time it is retrieved during the big one and all is well. The other 9% or so are like me, shit outta luck and back under the knife. Her candor in expressing her frustration was entirely appreciated and I finally understood what it all meant. I am all good with everything. Cancer, ya know?  

Today marked my 18th (out of 25) radiation treatment - next Friday being my last. Radiation sucks while being a breeze at the same time. My radiation oncologist at Smilow referred me to a doctor just down the road from my house in West Hartford. It would be a full-time job to drive 45 minutes to Smilow every day for a 30 minute to hour long appointment. His name is Dr. Rutter and he is awesome. He's younger than I am (oof) and tells it like it is. Best of all, he trained for two years at Smilow and knows my doctors and the type of care I've been receiving. I go everyday, Monday through Friday and see him on Thursdays. Radiation can cause fatigue, sometimes quite intensely. He said I may not notice it that much after going through chemo and having two young children at home. He is most of all right, but it has begun to hit me in the last week. I feel drained, usually at night, almost like I'm coming down with something. It also happens to be my favorite week of the year...SHARK WEEK. So the 1am bedtime is not helping. If you didn't already know, sharks are my favorite. Sharks, John Denver, crime (hearing, seeing, reading, investigating, not committing), those are my jam. Always have been, always will be. Anywho... 

Overall, I am doing quite well. Aside from lifting anything heavy, life is pretty much normal. Well, normal with a side of daily radiation...and lots of topical steroids...and some fatigue...and, hm. So, I am a bit fatigued from radiation and my skin is a pinkish-red. The incision under the right arm - that played a major role in both surgeries - is directly in the line of fire, so that one burns a bit. The sensations from the big one are still pretty intense. I continue to be swollen and completely numb in the front torso area. When I stand up after lying down, the feeling overwhelms me a bit and I get smacked for a few seconds. Things are starting to thaw from numbness and that can be pretty painful. Pings and pangs here and there and some general pulling on the giant incision definitely make me take notice. The other day I thought there was a thorn in my shirt, but after careful examination I realized it was Stella gettin' her groove back around my belly button. It lasted for a couple of hours and then subsided.  

A couple of random observations, if I may. After shaving my head, being bald, and now with hair not even an inch long, I am shocked at how heavy it is. I step out of the shower and it feels as though I have a mop on my head. This is so unexpected for me and perhaps one of those things you wouldn't understand, unless. I take a towel to it and next thing you know I'm looking in the mirror at Guy Fieri. Yikes. It's a fun little twist to the journey, I suppose. The other thing that I found pretty hilarious is due to the numb chest and tummy. I often walk out of the bathroom with my shirt, sweater, and whatever else I may be wearing at the time, tucked completely into my pants, and maybe further. We are talking, military-corners-tucked. I'm getting better at taking a look when I leave the bathroom, but it's definitely not enough.  Okay, I have rambled on. Thank you guys for sticking around. Much love. xx b

Hold up a second...

Here's the scoop - I am going back in for surgery tomorrow. Two weeks ago I had a CT scan that showed one of the titanium clips they put in during the biopsy (one in the tumor, one in the cancerous lymph node) is still in my body. They don't know if it fell out during surgery (possible), or if the node they biopsied (and tested positive for cancer) is still in my body.

During surgery, they injected a dye into my breast and watched the way it traveled, simulating the path cancer would take to the lymph nodes. 90% of all cases follow the same route through the Sentinel nodes and mine did just the same. They removed them (three on the right, one on the left), biopsied, sent to pathology, and all came back clear. Awesome, I was good to go. Cancer free! Now, with this clip hovering by a node, there are just two possible scenarios. One, the clip is IN the lymph node and my cancer took the path less traveled. Two, the clip is "floating in the breeze", having fallen out during surgery and missed when they vacuumed up the leftovers. *My apologies to all surgeons reading this thread, vacuuming up the leftovers is not a medical term. I will not know until I wake up. I could go home Monday night after a successful surgery and get back to healing at home. Or, I could wake up with 15-20 more lymph nodes removed, another drain, and spend the night at the hospital. Oh, how I love a good surprise. 

The real bummer about all this for me was that, for the first time, I lost a little bit of faith in Yale. Was this a mistake? Did they miss something? Doubting my dream team even the slightest was painful, it still is. There was a lot of anger two weeks ago, but never did my trust waiver. I was pissed this happened - it shouldn’t have happened. But it did, so now what? Would I change hospitals or doctors, no. Never. But the questions remain. I look forward to hearing the answers and then really forming how I feel. Right now I just don’t know and am not really feeling anything. Another big blow is the pending physical recovery...brutal. I am finally at a place where I can stand up straight, lie down flat, stretch my arms over my head, straighten my arm, the list goes on and on. I was about to start the first of my 25 radiation treatments. I was moving forward, cancer free. But now I am not. That is all delayed, even the cancer free bit. I can no longer say that, at least not for now. We just don't know what they'll find in there. They are optimistic though and so am I. Honestly, I have reached a point where I don't really care why it's there, or that I need another surgery. I decided a long time ago that I was donating my body to science for this ordeal and this is just another bump in the road.  

So, I had a double mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction. Without getting too graphic, they removed all breast tissue and replaced it with my own fat tissue. Sweet, right? Eh, sorta. I am completely numb, from the back of my arms down to well below my new belly button. Actually, they just cut a hole in my skin and flipped my old belly button up through it and sewed that bad boy back together. Pretty cool stuff. The pain was close to unbearable but has subsided greatly over the last 7 weeks. My breasts feel like two slabs of meat on my chest and may be like this for quite some time. There are random and very painful twinges of pain every now and then while my nerves regenerate themselves. My belly looks as if I'm four months pregnant and if I move in certain ways and contract the muscle, it feels as if I am too. In the beginning of recovery there were a lot of muscle spasms which really felt like a baby kicking. Before I panicked, I quickly calmed myself down with the reminder that it's only cancer surgery, not a baby. ;-)

My hair is starting to grow back and resembles a bit of a new duckling, soft and airy but damn well determined. It has taken an unusual shape, growing itself into a bit of a faux hawk. It is fun to have it back and a buzz cut in summer is definitely the way to go. I am surprised at how hard it has been for me to have hair. I really began to identify with being bald, a way to show people what I'm going through without having to explain. What I feared would be a source of embarrassment for me quickly became a source of pride. Chris has been such a wonderful partner in it all, always reassuring me and reminding me to look at the big picture. He did at one point say, "some eyebrows would be nice" and he wasn't wrong - eyebrows are definitely nice.

I could go on and on. Right now I am positive about it all and ready to do what I have to do. As with this entire process, there is no alternative. I don't have much of a choice and would never question my doctors at this point. They have to go in there and figure this shit out. I will demand plenty of answers upon my awakening.

Since surgery, I have had amazing visits from family and friends. The incredible support is beyond my wildest dreams and is certainly getting me through right now. Also, the Gettysburg women's lacrosse team won their second consecutive national championship!! I couldn't be prouder of my coach, the team, and all my ladies that were there before. You inspire - Forever a Bullet.

xo b

Pathology is back...

This entry was supposed to be about how terrible post-operative drains are, how it feels to be almost split in two, and how my bilateral mastectomy has not traumatized me (well... besides the one first look in the mirror which took my breath away). But today was a great day. Being exactly 6 months from my first chemotherapy treatment on October 27th, makes it an even more awesome one. Lyn and I went to my post-op appointment with both my plastic surgeon, Dr. Avraham, and my breast surgeon, Dr. Chagpar. The drains were removed, everything is healing well... yadda yadda. Guys, I am cancer free. Let me say that again, I am 100% cancer free. 

We were not expecting pathology today, but received it with open arms. Dr. Chagpar read the results with the same respect and tone with which she read my prognosis. There were hugs all around (even for the random medical student sitting in on what she thought was just a regular post-op appointment). I cannot sing loudly enough from the rooftops how I feel about Smilow and Yale. It is a wonderful place, filled with wonderfully brilliant people, and a rockin' black bean quesadilla. 

To all of you -- thank you. The excitement I feel writing this and sharing the news is beyond my control. Not wanting to celebrate in front of the computer all night, I will sign off now and write more another day. In the meantime, I love you all, and please love each other too. 

Cancer. Free. 

Becky is good to go: Surgery is Wednesday

I wanted to share a quick update before Bug heads into her bilateral mastectomy on Wednesday. She had her scans last Thursday, April 5th, to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. She was super anxious leading up to them, being that they would ultimately tell her whether or not the chemo had done its job. Another shout-out to Smilow and its amazing team of nurses and technicians… they made the day informative and weirdly fun for Becky, Heather, my mom and me. She left being radioactive - literally, she was given a blue card like a permission slip letting the public know she was glowing (see picture). Friday the news came back that there was “no evidence of metastatic disease” … i.e., she was GOOD. Definitely a sigh and worth celebrating. A week later, she had an Echo to make sure her heart was good to go for surgery. And two days ago, Becky and I took all 4 of our children along with us for her pre-op appointment with the plastic surgeon. After the hospital we all went to the beach and sat there, Becky anxiously looking at her phone to see if the cardiologist had called with the results of the Echo. Finally, at 5:30 the call came that she was GOOD (double whammy!). We celebrated again. 

She has an amazing team who is going to take great care of her, I am certain of that. Surgery will be long (more than 8 hours) but is relatively routine. Her doctors are kind and smart and gentle — all the qualities you’d want for your sister. And as the doctor said, there is no safer place in a hospital than the O.R. It was the perfect thing to say to Becky 5 days before surgery.

So now it’s go time. Chemo is done (hallelujah!) and Becky’s mind is all Becky. She is a superhero heading into this massive surgery. I ask you all to think of her on Wednesday — several times maybe, since she’ll be in there for most of the day. Again, thank you thank you THANK YOU to all of you for being there for her during this hell, all of it’s appreciated.

Lindsay xoxox

Straight Outta Chemo

...and just like that, chemo is done. Words, months ago, I'd never thought I'd utter, but now am so happy that I can. It seemed to fly by while also being the longest winter of my life. As the chemicals inside of me subside, each day gets easier, the colors brighter, the music better.

The actual last day of chemo was bittersweet. There were lots of tears, plenty of high-fives, and always some laughter. In fact, we—EVERY single one of my immediate family— were having so much fun at one point that the woman next to us yelled through the curtain for us to quiet down. I peeked my head through, as if to show her that I, too, am receiving treatment, not just with a traveling band of Buchas causing chaos. I apologized, and hoping for some compassionate camaraderie, explained that it was my last treatment. "Happy for you, sad for me" was the reply in a tone that does not open the door for friendship. Well, okay...back the curtain went and us Buchas sat around for the duration of treatment attempting to do our best whisper, at which none of us are very good.

Amid the celebration was a ton of anxiety for me. I could not be happier to have that part complete, but knowing I wasn't going to proactively be getting treatment anymore and seeing my "team" weekly was a heavy realization. The good of it all far outweighs the bad, of course, and I am ready for the next step. I will always think of chemo fondly, even though it ruined Caramel Macchiatos for me forever. As Lyn pointed out, it's a good thing on account of those macchiatos being all crap. She would be very pleased by the neon blue Fla-vor-ice I'm eating right now.

The rest of the weekend was filled with more love and togetherness before the medicine started to knock me down. It was like all the other post-treatment weeks, but when I started to come out of I danced in my kitchen for the first time in months. I went to the grocery store and danced there, too. Taking Tilly to school was heavenly!!! I mean, the freakin' car wash blew my mind. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. This newfound respect for life and everything that comes with it is eye-opening and pretty powerful. It is astounding what cancer and two months home-bound can do for someone. Grateful.

Thursday is a big day - my scans. I will have a bone scan and a full-body scan to determine the score of Becky vs. Cancer. Dr. Silber said she is optimistic so I am trying to be too. Anxiety is in full-swing however as another waiting game is ahead. The "what-ifs" circle in my mind and all rationale seems to go out of the window. If I don't reign myself in someone does, and I am able to breathe again. This push and pull will never be over, I'm afraid. For the rest of my life I will wait for results.

I had an appointment with my cardiologist today. I will continue to have echocardiograms for the next year to see the effect chemotherapy and Herceptin have had, and will have, on my heart. The results today were not ideal, but not surprising either. The magnitude of what I am enduring really hit me. It does from time-to-time, but this one threw me. With scans Thursday and surgery coming up in two weeks on the 18th, and the pace at which we're moving, it's a lot. But then I remind myself of how excited I was back in the fall to one day be in April and have surgery around the corner. That it meant that I got through some serious stuff. That has been my motto since the very beginning. "Just get through," is what my dear Jenn said to me right before I was even diagnosed. I was in that waiting game over the biopsy and what the possibilities meant, what I would do if it was. Jenn, who has proven to be one of the strongest people I know in the face of adversity and beyond, said..."just get through." She is so, so right. That's all we can hope for and dammit, I've done it. So here I sit typing, anxious for Thursday, anxious for surgery, and I take a deep breath and just get through.

My "break" as I've been calling it has been fantastic. I have had energy, am not too nauseous, have seen amazingly special people (read Buchas and Bernsohns, Jay and Kate specifically), and have really enjoyed myself. I will use that as motivation to get ready for what's ahead. 2017 Becky would have been psyched to be here.

Thank you all for listening.

xo b