Next Steps, More Hope

We walked into the gyno oncologist’s office yesterday and Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble” was playing. I passed over my new patient forms and insurance card. While I paid my co-pay, “Let It Be” started playing.

Really Universe? Okay.

The doctor reviewed the pathology report in depth. We spent over an hour with her asking all our questions, jotting down notes, going through different scenarios.

It basically boils down to this:

There is more cancer inside of me. We know this because there were no clear margins from the tissue removed during the cold-knife conization surgery. Clear margins means there is like a ring around the sample that shows no cancer or pre-cancer. Kind of like if my cancer was a castle the clear margins would be a moat. My sample had cancer all the way up to the edge. The cancerous part measures about 2 millimeters. We don’t know how much more is in there so we have to do another conization surgery. This time the doctor will cut up into my cervix in a more narrow, pointed cone shape since that’s where the cancer is showing up.

Good news: no cancer presents in my lymph nodes or my uterus, what they found is small (2 millimeters), and it was caught early.

Best case scenario is that after I have the second cone, the results will show clear margins meaning they cut the cancer out of me. This type of cancer I have, adenocarcinoma, is less common and so they don’t know much about how it operates unfortunately. It’s pretty disturbing that I could have only 2 abnormal paps and that the colposcopy didn’t show any cancer but that it took a conization for it to show up.

I’ll tell you this much: “clear margins” is my new mantra.

(Please, please, please let me get what I want this time.)

The option between the cone and the hysterectomy would be a trachelectomy (where they remove my cervix only). Very few doctors do this surgery but this doctor’s colleague does which makes me feel better. I’d rather have someone within reach if it comes to that.

Mr. Darcy and I feel . . . better. I certainly left there feeling like I could breathe a little easier than I had the past few weeks. I do better with a plan. And it helped to hear that it was caught early and it’s small even if I was told that originally. In this past week of fear and worry, I’ve lost sight of it. While I would much rather not have cancer at all, I’m grateful I have a fighting chance. There’s a glimmer of hope that this could be the last surgery I’d need and if that’s the case, maybe we might be able to conceive. I can tell you this much- no patient should be told she has cancer and then have to wait a week to talk to someone who can actually explain what was found. It is pure torture!

We have scheduled my second surgery for September 5th. I can’t have it any earlier because I have to wait 6 weeks from my last cone so that my cervix can heal. After that surgery we’ll wait a week for the results just like last time. Between now and then, I’m just going to focus on hopeful, happy thoughts like all the love in my life, my amazing fiance, my awesome network of support, my wonderful family, and my fantastic friends. Because if this cancer has shown me anything so far it’s that I am blessed. So very blessed.

So there is more fight to fight, more road to travel, but we’re readying ourselves for what lies ahead. Thank you for being along on the journey with us. Your support has buoyed us in this time of trouble.



Facing The Lion

“Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable.” -Winston Churchill

As someone who has made her living out of planning every last detail, in the past few weeks I’ve never been more aware of how little is within my ability to control in this life. It seems that shouting, “I have a plan!” is just the cue the Universe needs to pull the rug out from under you. I’m swallowing the fact that there is no way to plan yourself into safety. I’ve always feared the unknown but now I’m forced to make friends with it.

In my plan for my life right now I’d be working on the details of our October wedding not calling doctors offices to get appointments or answers. On Sunday we went to pick out tuxes for Mr. Darcy and Finn. I struggled to be in the moment and feel happy as we discussed what color bow ties to choose. And since we went with the dark teal and the vest which were Mr. Darcy’s choices, I think I acquiesce easier nowadays. (Mr. Darcy might beg to differ.) Later, I stood in my wedding dress for an hour and a half¬† during my alterations appointment trying to think about our wedding day and not my upcoming gyno oncologist appointment (or about passing out because, damn, it was hot in there).

I go to work, albeit, not always on time and sometimes when a doctor’s office calls I have to run around the office looking for a room with a door so I can talk privately about my cervix, viscosity of blood, the cancer. People seem surprised I’m working. What else would I do? Sitting around alone at home is not good for me. Life continues on and fuck if I am going to hide from it.

Friends worry about burdening me with their own troubles. I say BRING IT because I need to think of something other than this stupid cancer and what looms ahead. I need to support you too and show you I love you back with my caring. Besides, my cancer does not trump someone else’s sorrows or worries. We all have our troubles and heartaches. You tell me yours; I’ll tell you mine. This is not a contest of woes. If it is, for the first time in my life, I want to lose something.

Today at 1pm I have my first gyno oncologist appointment. Mr. Darcy is going with me and I’m bringing along my notebook of questions. I have no idea what the doctor will tell us. Right now when I picture it, it feels like standing in front of a loaded gun. (I need better imagery.) My hope is that the appointment gives us some options for next steps and some clarity about my condition. I’ve always been the type of person who would rather know the whole, hard truth than have potentially hurtful things glossed over for the sake of protecting me. I am tired of sitting idle with my fears. I am a person who takes action and all this sitting around just waiting is pissing me off.

As much as I can, I’m readying myself for the new information. I am prepared leave my armor at the door and to walk further into the unknown.

Marathon of Fear

“Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well.” -Pema Chondron

I still don’t know anything more about my cancer since the last time I wrote. Unless you count the Google searches I did which led me down a very black hole of misconstrued information and fear.

Note to self: Let’s not ever do that again.

I’m not myself, as you could expect. Besides the huge bags I’m carrying under my eyes, I think I just look . . . hollow. I’m pretty sure the worry is written all over my face and the stress is making my white hairs grow in faster. Vanity aside, it’s hard to feel so different from myself. Emotionally, I’m wrecked. I think the last time I was this fragile was during my breakdown of 2003. (I like to refer to it like that. Makes it sounds like I’m a character from a Woody Allen film.) Or maybe when I was 19 and my dad died.

I have cried a lot. This is, obviously, an understatement. Minor stressors have broken me into tears. Like too much downtown Seattle traffic to navigate which on a normal day just makes me pissed off but this time made me cry. Our dance instructor asked again about what kind of surgery I had so I just blurted out, “I have cancer.” Then I went to the bathroom to compose myself so I could come back out and dance with Mr. Darcy. Most of the time I can keep it together in public but it’s a tremendous effort and usually results in me crying in my car.

Maintaining that level of composure is very exhausting. People say I am handling it very well. That I’m brave. That I’m so strong. I don’t feel like I am. Inside I’m constantly having to talk myself off the tipping point of a complete freak out. Friday night I wasn’t so successful so Mr. Darcy came home to find me a crumpled mess on the bed, wailing about my fear of dying. If there were Olympic medals for being The Best Fiance, Mr. Darcy should win the gold.

The not knowing is making my mind think crazy thoughts. I’ve always had an over-active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Pair that with my impatience and my need to control everything and we have a recipe for disaster. I’ve started to doubt all the things I think I was told by my doctor. Did she really say it was small? Did she just reassure me that I’m not going to die because she felt bad for me? What if it’s spread? What if everyone gets sick of me talking about it and forgets about me? WHAT IF! WHAT IF! WHAT IF!

This is just a sampling of the thoughts running rampant in my brain that steal my focus and keep me from sleeping.

Besides the fears of, you know, dying and having to have a hysterectomy (or worse), I’m afraid of changing. It’s already happening. You can’t face this kind of news about yourself and not be changed by it. And while I am hoping the end result makes me a more together, compassionate, stronger woman, the process of feeling all this and having it shape me in a new way is so extremely uncomfortable. I have never felt more exposed, vulnerable, and not in control. I’m attempting to greet all my fears and get to know them instead of punching them in the face and running the other way.

I really want to punch them in the face though. (But I won’t.)

And so I wait to talk to the gyno oncologists. For answers I’m not sure I’m prepared to hear. For a plan that isn’t at all the one I’d designed for myself. Maybe once I talk to them, even if the news isn’t what I want to hear, I’ll feel better because I’ll have more concrete information.

I’m just waiting for the moment when I don’t have to walk around holding my breath anymore.

Flaws and Fears

Dear Blog,

It’s been almost two weeks since my last confession blog post.

My list of excuses for my absence are as follows:

1) I was busy

2) I was having too many emotions to make sense of in a blog post and/or it was stuff I don’t feel I can share publicly

3) I was paralyzed in the overwhelm that is my current emotional life

4) I feel I don’t have anything new to say or contribute to the blog world

5) I was avoiding you


Let’s discuss #3. A lot of people have been saying to me something similar to “you must be so excited and happy with the new house and the upcoming wedding!” And instead of gushing about it, I share an itemized list of all the things I have to do to get the house “ready” or get the wedding details in order. Where is the joy? Where is my happiness? I don’t even notice I’m not feeling those things until someone else does. This seems like a problem on top of a problem.

Not experiencing good feelings while not noticing the absence of said good feelings = problem.

I don’t mean to say I am never happy or excited or full of joy. But these moments are fleeting for me. They always have been. I have spent the majority of my life stressed out and in hyper-awareness mode. I’ve talked about this before countless times. I apologize for the redundancy but this way that I am is all up in my face right now and I need to talk it out (again).

I am always anticipating the problem so I can have a solution. This might be the nature I was born with or it might be the conditioning of growing up the oldest in an alcoholic household. I tend to be all business- meticulous, detailed, regimented, task-oriented, perfectionistic. Being that type of person has helped me function in the world, and in many respects, has helped me survive. These are some of my prized coping mechanisms. They make me really good at my job as an Event Manager. They make me very challenging to deal with in a relationship.

Mr. Darcy and I have been having a rough time the last few weeks. We are very opposite each other in some key ways. We also remind each other of our parents which is basically like picking up the trigger phone and dialing straight to crazy. In total honesty, we have said to one another (in complete fear of it being what the other person might be thinking/feeling) that maybe we shouldn’t get married. Does anyone ever talk about this? Because I sincerely doubt we are the only engaged couple to ever have these fights, thoughts, feelings, fears. Fuck it. So what if no one talks about it. I’m talking about it because it’s real for us. I know we’re not the only ones.

Back before we were engaged and we’d have an argument, sometimes one of us would wonder aloud if we should break up. I think for two people who are afraid of being rejected/left/unloved, going to that place and saying such a thing is understandable. Saying it doesn’t mean it should happen. It doesn’t even mean that either of us WANT it to happen. Pretty much it means the opposite of that, frankly. So now that we’ve upped the ante and are engaged, have bought a house together, and are a little over 3 months from a wedding, we now say “should we get married?” instead. It sucks. It hurts our feelings. Who the hell wants to acknowledge their deepest fears? I know people who spend their entire lifetimes avoiding such things! And yet here we are, looking it in the eye and feeling really shitty about it.

I want to marry Mr. Darcy. Even when I’ve been the one to say “should we get married?” I want to marry him. Even when we are having an argument, I want to marry him. He is my person. I just want to figure out how to get out of my own damn way so I can love him the way he deserves to be loved. I want to find a way to relax into trusting him and this relationship. I want to let myself feel happy feelings for more than a fleeting minute and figure out how to turn off the to do list running in my head like a ticker tape. I want to trust us, that no matter what we’re there for each other.

Every day I choose him, even on the days when I am not my best self or I question why he’d want to spend the rest of his life with me.

We’ve gone through a lot of change in the last month- he started a new job, we moved to a new neighborhood, our commutes changed, our routines flip-flopped, we bought a house(!), and we’re in the final stages of wedding planning. We might be kind of stressed out. I might be in full-on Colonel Sizzle mode, trying to reign in all the chaos. Mr. Darcy grew up in a home with an actual Colonel as a dad. Yeah, you can see how me being like that might not create harmony in the home. But we’re working on it because we love each other and want to be together. We’ll probably always be working on it. Relationships are works in progress.

Permission to be flawed, granted.

39: A Sweet Celebration

Thanks to everyone for making my birthday so extra special. I felt the love pour in from all parts of the globe and even got sang to by more than five people!

My family took me out to breakfast and Finn was excited to show me his new yo-yo skills.

I love that kid. He even drew me a cupcake on a card and wrote his own name. Quit growing up so fast, buddy.

I love this kid with all I got.

I treated myself to a massage at this local place I love. Massages are $30 for an hour. Sure, you’re in a big room full of recliners while the flat screen silently flicks shows in another language. It hurts so good. Mr. Darcy calls this place “the kimchi fart place” because the one and only time I took him there he swears the guy massaging him farted and it smelled like kimchi. He claims he’s an expert in recognizing this odor because an old roommate used to eat buckets of kimchi.Needless to say, I go there alone or sometimes with girlfriends. I also got a mani/pedi because I like to spoil myself.

I capped the beautiful day off with a delicious meal with my love. The restaurant Mr. Darcy took me to was in walking distance of our apartment and had half priced bottles of wine on Wednesday so . . . we indulged. The kale salad was delicious and the chocolate, salted peanut ice cream sandwiches made my life. SO GOOD. There was a guy playing the piano at the restaurant, lots of jazz standards which are my favorite. At the end of the night as we were getting ready to leave he started playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and we danced in a tiny corner of the restaurant. And I know my grandma smiled down on us from heaven.

I was going to make a 40 Before 40 list but honestly? I don’t need a list to live my life to the fullest. I’m doing it already which blows my mind in a really good way. People keep saying that this is going to be “my year” and I get why since there is so much big stuff on the horizon. But, I feel more focused on how tremendously grateful I am that I am here, in this magical place, surrounded by love (including love for myself which was not something I could say 10 years ago). From the deep down reaches of my soul, I’m thankful.

Cheers to living out loud!

I’ve Got Two Words For You

And they are not “I do.”

How about:



You know what that means, right? We found a house, put an offer, and are in mutual acceptance.

We went out house hunting Saturday, excited to see one house in particular that had come back on the market after buyer financing failed. After seeing a few duds, we arrived at this particular house and spent time walking around talking about the pros and cons. We hung out for a while in the kitchen/living room area almost trying to convince ourselves that we liked it. I mean, we DID like it but it wasn’t winning us over. We left to look at a few more houses, still pondering why we weren’t sold when it looked so good “on paper.”

We saw another house that had a lot of promise- spacious and upgraded with a view of Mount Rainer from the front porch but we didn’t like the neighborhood that much. We drove on to see another in a part of town we keep being drawn back to. There are a lot of houses for sale in this ‘hood and while it’s a bit far from any hub of coolness, we like the suburbaness of it. It’s about fifteen minutes on the freeway from downtown and about that far from my mom’s house and my sister’s house. The commute to work would increase for both Darcy and I but we anticipated that. There is no way we could afford a house in any of the closer downtown Seattle neighborhoods unless we had $100,000 more and were willing to buy a 2 bedroom (which we tried looking at but didn’t like).

So all this is to say that we walked into this 1954 house located on a corner lot and went WOW. Everything had been upgraded. There were hardwood floors, new carpets, two fireplaces, a stainless steel/granite kitchen and 4 bedrooms. FOUR! Plus two living rooms. The yard needs help- it has this terrible dog run that looks more like a cage and part of the fence needs to be replaced if we were to get a dog. The front has possibility for lots of planting and even the concrete backyard has promise. It’s good to have some projects to plan for, right?

Living room #1

We left there knowing we wanted it. After discussing it with our agent and broker, we put in an offer on Easter for the asking price. Yesterday, the sellers countered and we agreed to the new terms (we’re folding in $4000 to our loan amount to cover closing costs). They had another offer that didn’t ask for closing costs to be covered but since we got our offer in first and our agent wrote a cover letter that impressed them, they gave us dibs.

Upgraded kitchen (that isn't my dream kitchen but I can live with it until we can make some changes to it)

We’re at the top of what we want to spend but it’s do-able. We decided to put only 5% down instead of 10% because with the wedding and having to furnish a 4 bedroom house, we’ll need some cushion and with the 10% option we were worrying about being capital B Broke. The inspection is scheduled for Sunday so we should know more then. It’s all moving very fast but that’s how it goes with house buying. We have spent so many hours looking for houses and driving around that it’s hard to believe this is actually happening. But it is!

Well hello house!

Keep your fingers crossed for us, ok?

Click Over

Please click over to my blog and see my new look!

Huge thanks to my talented husband-to-be, Mr. Darcy, for the amazing new header.  And to Tomato for making it work after tireless hours of tweaking to find the right template.

What do you think?

Master To Do List: Manage Feelings & Expectations

We will have three big wedding items checked off our master to do list by the end of this week.

Venue: CHECK

(subsequently) Date: CHECK

Photographers: CHECK

Caterer: Deciding between two of our favorites

It feels good to have those big things pretty much done and it allows for me to focus mainly on my big fundraiser at work for the rest of the month. Although, it doesn’t stop me from fretting over the guest list. I’ve always been overly concerned with hurting people’s feelings. Nothing like a wedding to bring up old habits!

Many months ago, OK FINE, back when Mr. Darcy and I first visited New Jersey together (over a year and a half ago) and we first discussed marriage, I made a list of wedding guests on the plane ride home. What? He was sleeping and I had finished my book. I needed to occupy my time! AHEM. Anyhow, there was a list and since then, that list has changed due to the cost of putting on a wedding and the fact that we’re mostly paying for it ourselves. Plus, as we’ve begun planning in earnest, our vision for our day has shaped it. We want it to be rather small (under 75 people) so that we can actually spend time with our most important people.

Here’s where it gets a bit messy.

A lot of our closest friends and extended family live far away (In California and New Jersey mainly). Mr. Darcy has more immediate family members than I do but I have more core friends that are family (James Dean & Natalie Wood, Tomato, Dumpling & Jersey Girl, Bird, Rae Rae & Run Run, Supple, and Jenny Two Times). My extended family is many people. As in, you invite one, you invite 40+ people. The Irish like to procreate. We can’t conceivably afford to invite my entire extended family and be able to afford it. Plus, it totally changes the vision of our wedding from a small one to a big one. So, we made the difficult decision to not invite them but instead to go to them in California and have a party there. That way we get to celebrate with all of them, take a mini-vacation in one of our favorite cities, and not go over our wedding budget or ask all of them to spend money on airfare and accommodations for our wedding. Same goes for New Jersey- we will go out there to visit the family and they are throwing us some sort of party (at a country club which sounds very fancy) to invite extended family and friends to celebrate.

I’m not entirely sure if I’ve hurt any of my family’s feelings. I wrote them all before the announcement of our engagement went viral to tell them personally about the good news and our plan to have a small wedding but to celebrate with them in California. Most wrote back with congratulations. If they are upset, no one told me (though I realize that’d be in poor taste to bring that up at that moment). I know my Mom is having feelings about not having her family at the wedding and I’m sorry for her sadness. We’ve had a couple of talks about it already (because it’s not technically a wedding without some family strife, right?). It’s hard to not be able to make everyone happy but that’s sort of the story of life, isn’t it? You can’t please everyone. It’s often hard to do what you personally think is right when it hurts people you care about. And honestly, I’d rather not invite any of the extended family than to pick a few I am close to and possibly hurt the other family member’s feelings.

Besides family, there might be a few friends who are sad to not get an invitation. I’m probably overly concerned about the fall out from that but we really have to stick to our budget and our vision and just hope people will understand. I’m really struggling to feel okay with all of it knowing this is the right decision even when it could upset someone. When people say, “oh you’re the bride! just think about what you and Mr. Darcy want!” I get where they are coming from but it doesn’t change the reality that when there are feelings involved, it could get messy.

So basically on my master to do list for the wedding where it says “Manage Feelings” I have “on-going, try meditating”.

Does this emotional meltdown make me look fat?

Last week I had a major meltdown of epic proportions.

I had purchased jeans on-line. I hate jeans shopping. I think I hate it more than swimsuit shopping. As much as I proclaim I am a dress girl all the way, there is this piece of me that longs to just throw on jeans and a shirt and look effortlessly cool and hip and comfortable. But usually when I put on jeans I feel dumpy. I carry the majority of my weight in my belly so jeans that usually fit my legs don’t fit around my middle. As was the case with this pair. I got them buttoned but my stomach was smushed up and over the waistband. I walked out to the living room to show Mr. Darcy and was laughing about how ridiculous I looked. He even remarked, “At least you can laugh about it.”

I went back to the bedroom to change and looked at myself hard in the mirror. I stopped laughing and cringed. I felt ashamed and for me, shame usually gets masked by anger. I started to internalize my anger, saying terribly mean things to myself about being ugly, fat, unworthy, unloveable. I tried to cover up my downward spiral by going about making myself dinner (I had gone to dance class after work so it was nearing 8pm). But then my internal fuckedupness told me that I didn’t deserve to eat. Look at how gross I am. Look at how pathetic. Mr. Darcy tried to be comforting but I pushed him away saying I was going into the bathroom to probably cry. I feel so silly crying about my body in front of him. I know he feels helpless. I know he thinks I am beautiful. But I don’t. And that’s the crux of the problem here.

So I cried and then tried to pull myself together to go watch TV with him on the couch. I looked pretty pathetic sitting there, curled up into myself, far away from any comfort Mr. Darcy might want to try to give me. He tried, bless his heart, and I started to try to explain. “I just want to be normal! I just want it to be easier to find clothes so I can look like everyone else. And this is why I am paralyzed with fear about finding a wedding dress. What if I can’t find anything? What if it’s all dumpy plus sized dresses made out of cheap material? I’m so afraid I’ll have a horrible experience shopping that I will be pushed to this place of self-hatred and I won’t be able to come back from it.” It poured out of me and I felt too raw to sit there exposed like that so I left and went back to the bathroom.

I like to have my breakdowns in privacy.

I sat on the bathroom floor and bawled. I felt scared that I couldn’t pull myself back from the crazy precipice I had found myself at. I couldn’t self-soothe. I couldn’t rationalize my emotional roller coaster. I couldn’t catch my breath. I had spiraled to the dark place. I felt utterly alone.

I suppose this all sounds dramatic and maybe I was being over-wrought. I can usually talk myself down from this mental state but for some reason that night I was unable to.* When I opened the bathroom door Mr. Darcy was standing there, leaning against the wall. I felt even worse knowing he’d heard me- that he’d stood out there waiting for me to be done, knowing that if he’d try to comfort me I would have pushed him further away. So he waited and listened to me cry even though it was hard for him to do so. He’s learned to give me space but not to completely disappear and I am so grateful for him. So thankful that he loves me even when I’m clearly acting like a lunatic.

My therapy appointments are focused on my body loathing because it holds me back from being fully present in my life. Because it’s the thing I always come back to when I feel low. It’s my shame epicenter. And goddamnit I am tired of it. Despite a lifetime of dieting and trying different work out regimes, starving and bingeing, hating myself for not accepting myself as is and shaming myself for not being “an acceptable weight”, I’m just SO DONE carrying all this around. It’s like a barrier between myself and the life I want to live. I want to be free. And so, I’m diving into the deep emotional work and I’m basically terrified about what I could discover. But I’m doing it anyhow because this isn’t how I want to live. Even if it’s just an occasional breakdown, those feelings live inside me just waiting for the opportunity to break out. Where do those feelings come from? And why?

I hope to find out. And I hope what I discover doesn’t break me.


*Turns out those crazy emotions could be attributed to whacked out hormones. Thanks PMS! But still, something has to change.

Avoidance Master

You guys? I’m not doing very good with the whole “be in the joy” thing.

I’m totally sucking at it actually. As evidenced by the couple of crying outbursts I had over the weekend. I’m just so pent up. And when I try to get in touch with the feeling I kind of freak out and start thinking about things on my to do list. That’s my M.O. – when avoiding feelings, do. Which is probably why we have a venue for our wedding (awaiting confirmation from location) and subsequently a date, have sent out four inquiries to potential photographers, have set up a bare bones web page, decided on colors, created a budget, and a master to do list. Oh and tentatively booked a band.

Avoidance. I’m a master at it. But damn if I don’t get shit done!

I finally broke down Sunday to Mr. Darcy. I feel like a drill sergeant a lot of the time. “We’ve got to book this!” “We’ve got to send inquiries to caterers now!” “Which template do you like best?” It’s too much. I can see it in his eyes. He’s panicking and backing off. I would too if I had to deal with me. I saw the look and just cried out, “I’M NOT HAVING ANY FUN!” Because, WTF, this should have some elements of fun. We’re getting married! That’s joyous! BUT I CAN’T FEEL THE JOY BECAUSE I AM TOO BUSY FREAKING THE FUCK OUT ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Deep breath.

I appreciate that everyone is excited for us. I think it is so sweet that people have suggestions and offer to help. I know it is up to me to temper all the well-meaning advice with our own vision. I know people will likely get their feelings hurt despite my best efforts not to do that. I realize that I will probably end up calling Jenny Two Times many times over the next 9 months, crying. I just hope that some of those times will be because I am overjoyed with good feeling, because I’m finally able to fully feel the enormity of this- that a wonderful man has asked me to spend the rest of our lives together.