Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
We'll start this diary on Monday, September 13th. Five weeks after diagnosis, Marianne will be heading into mastectomy surgery in a couple days and the elephant has grown big enough to crowd out most other matters.
Our Monday medical minute was a discussion with the plastic surgeon concerning the potential for reconstruction surgery. Marianne has been 99% sure she did not want it and this conversation did nothing to change her mind. The doctor did address the question of whether a double mastectomy, Marianne's preference, would make enough medical sense to be a covered operation. In his judgment, it would, and he volunteered to help with that process if our mastectomy surgeon balked. Thanks, doc.
Otherwise, we just tried to keep busy. Marianne worked in her flower patch and, a little, the art studio. I did my normal time-wasting with YouTube discussions of electric vehicles. Starting a new puzzle seemed almost productive. (739 squiggly pieces)
Tuesday included three medical appointments. First, a phone conference with Brittany, the Kaiser Oncology interface specialist, who got an earful from a customer unhappy with being ignored after last week's calls for explanations and assistance. Getting an email describing "triple negative" breast cancer was threatening and pretty impersonal.
Next up was a "bone infusion", a twice-a-year process that is a followup to Cancer Round 1. The old journey continues. Finally, Marianne had to get a radioactive shot to allow identifying lymph nodes that may need examination as part of surgery.
At home, it was mostly worry, and prepping for surgery with special soaps and cleaning. As a second round, it's somehow less threatening. Maybe an impossible puzzle helped me.
Wednesday, surgery day, started early with Marianne's last pre-op meal, a protein drink. Then dressing in the required "loose clothing" and more worry. Off to the hospital to arrive by 8:10. Check-in and go behind doors at 9:00.
The day did not go according to plan. The surgery had been scheduled for 10:15, but was delayed for at least four hours by emergencies taking over the operating room. She came out of surgery at 4:15 and spent the next three hours in recovery. Visitors are not allowed to hang around inside, so I spent all this time in the parking lot, thankful for a comfortable electric car that can run the air conditioner and laptop for hours on end. Dinner was not healthy.
I picked her up at 7:30 and drove carefully home. Then she struggled up the stairs, to rest in her own bed, where she slept well. Good.
By Thursday morning, Marianne was doing better, still tired and needing pain meds, but better. She spent the whole day upstairs, not strong enough for stairs, but gradually improving. Neighbor Gloria brought over egg broth, special Columbian folk medicine. Thanks. I dealt with the inside day by working on the hardest puzzle I have ever done and by doing my best at the Mr. Nurse thing.
Friday morning and things improved. Flowers from friends and family continued to arrive, Marianne had a bit of an appetite, and, after hours and hours, I made puzzle progress. All of it required patience, but that seemed easy enough.
Saturday was filled with milestones. I left the patient alone for the first time since surgery, while I shopped for a few items at the farmer's market. After I was back, Marianne successfully navigated the stairs and enjoyed her new surroundings too. Lunch/dinner was provided by Katinka, a great albondigas soup! Thanks again.
Marianne even managed some art hut time - about five minutes only, but it's a start. When I finished my puzzle, it was tempting to declare victory more broadly, but I know it is just a small step for a man (and nothing for mankind.)
We both went to bed tired, but satisfied with progress.
On Sunday morning, we celebrated with breakfast out - out on the patio. Fresno weather has turned to the perfect-weather period between hot summer and cool winter and patio dining is back in favor. Dinner was al fresco too and, while we ate a John-prepared meal, neighbor Blain came by with another. Nice neighborhood.
Our day was almost normal, although the patient did need a couple of rest periods. Otherwise, she spent time on the phone with friends and on the iPad with Netflix. Screens were made for situations like this.
On Monday morning I caught up with these diaries while Marianne caught up with news on her iPhone. This IS our regular life. It was Saturday morning, the 25th, before I added to this diary of recovery week mostly because there was little remarkable. Monday was better than Sunday. Marianne talked with Dale in Germany and "attended" an on-line art class. Then we went outside the house for a grocery shopping trip that took most of her remaining energy.
On Tuesday, I worked in a long walk, complete with flowers and old houses. I like the old houses in our part of Fresno. One neighbor had installed a new door, done is a classic old style. Nice. The trio of old homes on Home Avenue were still some of my favorite walk attractions.
Another neighbor had put their home on the market, after living there for 48 years! Maybe you need to move in?
On Wednesday we had our first post-operation guest, Ren. She's a delightful visitor and a spectacular artist as well, and reported on her weekend art fair in Palo Alto. This was her first show since the pandemic shutdown and it was a good sign for all artists, I suppose.
Thursday was breakfast out at The Red Apple Cafe and then another Peloton day for me to make up. Marianne had a Zoom meeting. Both of us got tired I think, but she was getting better, bit by bit.
Friday saw more flowers arrive. Marianne disappeared into the art studio. I puttered with watering the garden, pulling a few weeds, and reading "Peril", Bob Woodward's latest book on the calamity that was the Trump administration.
Lunch was at a right-wing restaurant. Really. The owner has made a big deal of fighting all controls and, when we went in, we noticed we were the only masked people in the very large and crowded restaurant. In hindsight, we should have turned around and left. Now I will worry about any little cough in the next few days.
We finished the day and the "work" week with zoom game night with the Colorado and Maryland sons. It's time to check on grandsons. The younger pair had caught a cold of some sort, which nowadays prompts Covid testing. (Negative, so far.) A couple years ago, colds were colds, now they are threats to health and life. Sheesh.
The weekend started as quiet as they usually do nowadays. We did a little shopping, but not too much since our prime shopper is still recovering from surgery. I did a little yard and garden work and then settled in, building another 1,000-piece puzzle that the shopper picked up for me. Thanks.
On Sunday we had dinner guests. Jennifer and Dan came down from their foothills home to see what our city life was like. We chatted with our new friends for a few hours and finished up with a tour of Marianne's studio. It was nice being social!
The rest of the week was as routine as one could imagine. Marianne recovered well enough to restart walking exercises and a little art. I got in my required four days of exercise, a combination of fancy bike riding and not-so-fancy neighborhood walking.
Neighborhood flowers have almost disappeared as gardens move into Fall and Winter. I have settled into the Fresno pattern of seasons changes. Hot summers last a bit too long, and then there is a month or so of almost perfect temperatures before cooling for winter. Hopefully that cooling will bring rains, but nothing in the forecasts so far.
My National Parks puzzle got finished. This seems to be the best hobby for me now, not too hard, but a little challenging. Mostly, it takes up a good chunk of the quiet time. Marianne and I work at reading (actually listening for her, since she is trying audible books). We both are working on "Peril", Bob Woodward's latest book describing the disaster of our past president. I can only read a chapter or two at a time before I am discouraged and shift to the puzzle.
Marianne had a fun art lesson this week: brush building. The online instructor told the class to create brushes out of "whatever" and our student attached sticks to ropes, strings, feathers, and kitchen utensils. Dipped in black paint, each creation served up interesting "markings". Who'd a thought?
And that finishes our week at home, and our month, for that matter. We will try to get in some visiting in October before cancer treatment (probably chemotherapy) becomes the focus. It's hard to think beyond that.
John and Marianne