Skip to content

Surgery’s over, now what?

July 21, 2021

Update: I am officially cancer free as of my surgery!! So, everything from here on out is preventative.

Surgery was actually way easier than I thought it would be. I was very well drugged (shoutout to my anesthesiologist) and woke up like, really? It’s over? And then the same day I was walking around a little bit. By day 3 or so, I was up and walking daily, and by the end of the first week I was tapering down my pain meds and going on pretty decently long walks. And now at 4weeks, I’ve got full range of motion in both arms and there’s only a little bit of numbness under my arm, which may unfortunately stay that way. Still better than chemo.

So now, since my cancer type feeds on estrogen, the plan is to essentially rid my body of estrogen entirely. The way to do that is kick me into early menopause, with a monthly shot that stops ovulation and takes my estrogen down extremely low. There is still a bit of estrogen left at this point. No more kids for me (THIS IS A VERY GOOD THING).

I start the shots next week on Friday, and then while my body is getting accustomed to that, I will start radiation. My first consult is Aug 2, which is basically the planning session — mark the area that it will go, what position will I need to hang out in while I am being radiated, etc. Then shortly after that I’ll start going every day 5 days a week, with weekends for a break — all for 6 weeks.

At the end of radiation, then I will start a daily pill which will take my estrogen to zero. The monthly shots and the daily pill will continue for 5 to 10 years, or basically until I enter menopause age (45-50ish).

I’m not suuuuuper excited about getting hot flashes and night sweats, but hey, I still have my hair and I didn’t have to do chemo. I’ll take it!

Surgery tomorrow and no chemo!

June 10, 2021

GREAT NEWS!

I don’t have to get chemo!!!!!!!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH I AM SO RELIEVED!

So tomorrow morning at 6am is the surgery. Go into OR at 7:30, the surgery takes 3 hours, then a few hours to recover, make sure I eat something/pee etc. Then Netflix and bed and snacks for 2 weeks. Then, a month to heal from surgery, and then into radiation for 6 weeks.

After radiation, to prevent the cancer from coming back, I will be going on monthly shots that will basically kick me into menopause early so that I stop producing estrogen (which is the cancer’s source of food).

So that whole menopause-at-36 thing is kind of scary, but at least it’s not chemo. Chemo is a LOT scarier.

Wish me luck tomorrow! 🍀❤️

Updates: MRI, PET & genetic test results

June 8, 2021

Good news! Nothing surprising showed on the MRI or the full-body PET scan. These tests were looking for whether or not the cancer had spread to other parts of my body. Often times, breast cancer and ovarian cancer are related (and over-production of estrogen is the main culprit that affects both) but that didn’t show up in my case. There was some activity in my uterus+brain, but looked like it was due to my period starting that same day. Yay!

Finally, got a genetic test back today that screened for the 70 genes that are involved in, or directly cause breast cancer (like BRCA-1 and BRCA-2.) I don’t have any genes that would have caused my cancer so young. So, we don’t know why I got it this early. Shrug. Whatever. It’s here. Let’s deal with it. But, good news in that it may mean I won’t have to deal with *inevitable* recurrence. That’s not to say it will never ever come back, but at least my gene pool isn’t totally shot.

So here’s the plan:

  • Next up: Oncologist appointment this Wednesday, 3pm

  • Next week: UCSF breast surgeon on Monday, 3pm (2nd opinion/trying to move my care over to the #10 breast cancer center in the country, yes please)

  • Then: Maybe know what my treatment will be?
    Fingers crossed for surgery + radiation and NO CHEMO!! (fingers crossed soooo haaarrrdddd)

P.S. I have received gifts and texts and calls from so many of you, and it has been SO helpful to remind me that I have a ton of support. Thank you all SO MUCH! I love you!!

Baby’s first MRI

May 27, 2021

Why is it that surprise needles are the worst kind of needles?

I have small veins, and all during my pregnancy the techs would tell me how hard it was to pin one down. NEVER did anyone mention that being hydrated helped with that. I have always hated needles, and am the type that gets faint from the flu shot, but pregnancy numbed me a LOT to my fear and I thought I was past it.

So when I went in to get my first breast MRI today, the instructions were, “get changed, and then we’ll put your IV in.” Uhhhh, okay, didn’t know we were getting poked today, thought I was just going into a tube, but okay. Ugh, I really hate needles.

They gave me a pink shower cap to wear (v. sexi) and earplugs so that I wouldn’t have to move my arms post-IV.

Then I warned her about my veins. She still seemed pretty confident. There were two student nurses there watching… (yaaay 😦 … I mean, educate the youths!) So then one IV went into my elbow crook, and she tested it…nope, didn’t get fully in and blood wasn’t flowing. She asked how much water I had to drink this morning. “Um, well I had a whole cup of coffee and then like a sip of water to wash it down?” Gulp. THEN she tells me about hydration. Sigh.

So the first IV comes out. One of the students (another Kayla!) grabbed me a tiny cup of water while I can start to feel the beads of sweat form on my forehead. I let her know about the whole hates-needles thing and that I was starting to feel hot. She grabbed me another cup of water and gave me a few moments to meditate quickly and take a few deep breaths.

Then, we tried my right hand. She put the needle in (you can really feel it a lot more in your hand, but my veins seem to be easier there) and goes, “well, that didn’t work, that one burst right away.” If anyone medical can tell me what “bursting” means in relation to your veins, that would help me not assume that now I have a broken explosion wound inside my hand. 😐

So then I took another few minutes and another tiny cup of water, and the nurse said she’d just look one more time and if we couldn’t get it, we’d reschedule so I could hydrate beforehand. Then it went in!

They led me to the MRI room, where there was a big tube and a massage-table looking thing where you lay face down, with a face cushion and two holes for boobs and gave me headphones over my earplugs. Basically no smashing this time, just hanging out in Superman pose and being very still. 20 minutes inside with the beeping, then nurse came in to add contrast to my IV, then 10 more minutes and done.

I’m not claustrophobic, so I didn’t have much issue with the small space or terrifically loud beeping. It was a little odd being wheeled into the tube because I couldn’t see anything. Then the beeping started. At first I thought it might be like Morse code and I could kill some time trying to decipher it. Then it just got completely irregular and reminded me of a bad electronic ‘musician’ that you hear at the sound camps at Burning Man, then I got distracted thinking about riding bikes all around Burning Man and how the next time I’m there, it’s going to be a topless week dedicated to Lefty. Maybe I’ll get a big heart tattoo around her.

So, overall a success, and I should find out results in a couple days.

This afternoon, my surgeon also called me to tell me my case went to the tumor board, and that the board agreed with our plan of chemo, lumpectomy and lift (wooo! boob lift!!), then 5yrs of estrogen-blocking meds, but recommended a PET CT scan, which I’m about to go google.

Tomorrow, I have a video appointment with a genetics counselor who will assess my family history and try to pin down risk of recurrence or if I’ll pass it down. Then June 2, I meet with my plastic surgeon. Finally, June 9th I meet my oncologist for the first time (although she’s been active in my care already with the oncology surgeon) and get the results of a mammaprint which also assesses if I’m high or low risk for recurrence.

Fingers crossed!

Welp, it’s cancer

May 27, 2021

Q: So how did you find it? WTF!! What happened?

It was Thursday (5/6) in the late afternoon, and we were both done with work a little early. I was in the hot tub with Anthony enjoying my life. He asked me how I was doing, and I said, actually I am doing SO good right now, it’s like everything is going really well and I just want to soak in it. Classic Russian novel foreshadowing shit.

Then I got in the shower and found a lump in my left breast. It was weird, because I’m pretty aware of my body, and it appeared really suddenly. I got on the OneMedical app, booked an appt that same evening, and went to the Dr, where she gave me a breast exam and referred me to go get an ultrasound and mammogram for the following Tuesday (5/11). I expected… I don’t know, something similar to an x-ray. I did not have any prior knowledge of what a mammogram actually is, and was slightly disturbed at finding that a machine exists to flatten your boob while it x-rays it.

Tuesday morning I got my first mammogram (which normally you’re not supposed to start until 45…). Anthony went with me and sat in the waiting hallway the whole time and got texts from me about how weird the mammogram machine is.

I met a wonderful nurse named Agnes. She was probably in her early 60s, clearly very experienced, and led me through the whole process and explained every step that was going to happen in advance. She said “sorry, I know this room is cold” and “sorry, I know that’s uncomfortable” and other versions of sorry a lot, which was comforting.

Once the Dimension machine was done with me, Agnes went to review the footage. She came back and led me into another room for an ultrasound, which is *exactly* like the pregnancy ultrasound: some blue jelly (warm this time), a little wand, and a screen where I could see what she was seeing.

On the screen, we saw a big black irregular mass. It looked sort of like this on the ultrasound machine:

I’ll talk about the biopsy, which I got the same day, in another post. It sucked. The cliff’s notes is that when the biopsy was starting, they kept asking if I was ok because I was quiet. I told them, “Yeah I’m fine, I’m just singing ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the Bee Gees in my head.” And I actually was totally fine. Then after they punctured me the second time and it really hurt and bled, I started crying. Afterward, Agnes told me, “It’s a journey. You just got on the first step.”

Then we went on vacation to Hawaii (which was perfect and amazing) and I got the call on that Tuesday, 5/18. The nurse spent 30-45 min with me on the phone explaining everything, and then I went to the beach with my best friends (several besties not pictured, I’m looking at you, MH, FF, EZ, and MG). I love you guys.

Here are my results from the biopsies, one in my left boob and the other in my left lymph node.



IDC, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, stage 2

Tumor size by imaging: 32mm

Grade 2 (scale 1-3). — growing faster than we’d like, basically

Estrogen receptor positive

Progesterone receptor positive

Her2neu status: negative

Ki-67/Mib1: ~50% (high)

Lymph node involved by carcinoma

So now it’s time for an MRI, and waiting for a mammaprint result, and then also trying to get a second opinion from UCSF coordinated. Phew!

Corona Garden

April 8, 2020

The first weekend in isolation, we went out to the garden. A long-neglected graveyard of dog excrement and broken toys, buzzing with flies, the work felt like the perfect project to “spring clean” – as if spring ever really comes in the city. The deck had the only respectable plants, some potted tulips and a reluctant sage. At least it was clean already.

Armed with gloves and black dumpster bags, we wrestled the clovers out of the ground, coming across stray dog shit and shaming myself in my head at how bad we let it get. How neglect turned our tiny plot of real green space into a smelly little dump. How wasteful. How ungrateful.

The last time I let it get this bad was when Simone was born. Those first few months, I couldn’t take care of any other creatures – Anthony took care of the pets, and me, and I took care of Simone. However, nearly every plant in our house died, because I am the one who cares about the greenery.

In a way, the clovers in our yard act like the virus. They choke the sunlight out of every other plant, covering them up completely until they wilt into the damp ground. You can pull up the weed, and it’s satisfying, because the root comes out completely – or so you think. Under the earth, a fat seed waits. You can’t see it. You don’t know how bad it is, or how many of them lie dormant. Unless we unearth an entire foot of soil in the garden and completely eradicate it, those little bastard seeds will come back over and over again. You can try as hard as you can but never truly get rid of them without serious and drastic effort. The lobotomy of garden work.

And so, too, my shame waits under the cover of one (in)action, and another, and another. It appears in situations where I have no control. Where I behave too much like a human, not enough like a saint. Where my thoughts and feelings are messy, and full of shit surprises. There’s no easy path out, unless we’re gonna unearth a whole layer of earth, which we very well may have to do at some point.

But for now, the patchwork effort is enough. The clearing we made, and the consistent effort to get outside, clean up, and maintain the space is just enough. Just enough that when I look out my bedroom window/home office/therapist’s office/personal space, I see a grateful little tree slowly budding apple blossoms, and I think: well if she can do it, damn it, then I will too.

Nextdoor and the Mission Terrace Garden Tour

March 23, 2018

I downloaded Nextdoor about a year ago, curious after having heard a story from my coworker about how in Russian Hill it was helping her feel connected to her neighbors.

I opened and scrolled through the feed, and noticed a posting advertising the first annual “Mission Terrace Garden Tour.” It promised “urban homesteads, drought-tolerant landscapes, glass-filled pathways, labyrinths, succulents, and blooms galore. Something for everyone,” they said. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and we went.

The walk was an opening of houses to showcase gardens. In Mission Terrace, where we live, there are stretches of awesome, entire-block-long backyards. At the first house we walked to, a 2-story right off Balboa Park, a woman sat in a lawn chair inside the garage handing out cookies. Simone was obviously smitten, as a 2-year-old gets when given cookies.

She pointed us back through, and we walked through their very normal garage full of boxes and art and old furniture into a backyard that stretched back at least 300 feet. The owner greeted us. A sizable greenhouse sat in the back, and to the side, a long section for composting. Row by row of gorgeous and slightly wild plants passed us by as we toured. The owner told us about the special worms used for composting, and offered to give us some, anytime.

We took a peek inside the greenhouse. A little Buddhist statue sat atop a large fan blowing hot air. The owner remarked that the greenhouse was most beautiful on a rainy day, sitting inside the warm hut with a joint listening to the pounding rain.

The next house, and the next house, and the house after that – they were all a blur. Genuinely nice people offered us strawberries, geeked out with us over landscaping and offered us wine. Simone tragically poked her hand into someone’s cactus and screamed while the homeowners rushed to get tweezers and snacks to distract her (we pulled out the spine, all was well). We kept on with our journey, and visited one woman who had recently transformed her backyard into an oasis complete with glass pebble walkway, multiple fountains and a breezy art studio. She handed me a glass and proclaimed, “Welcome! It’s rosé day!” As we left, others entered. More rosé.

As we were making our way back home (4 or so blocks), we passed a house that butted up against an easement. There are many of these easements in Mission Terrace; they’re an easy access point for PG&E from behind the house, so there are these barren trails behind the houses between blocks. As we chatted with the homeowner, he told us about a dinner that happens every year in September, the Alley Pasta Dinner. But that’s a story for another time.

Mission-terrace-garden-walk

A piece remains

October 25, 2016


All along the chain link fence by the baseball fields, there are pieces of tree root merged with the steel. 

From a distance, they look like a shoddy cleanup job, but up close, you can see where the gardener tried with all his might to break the pieces off the fence, and failed. You can see chop marks on the steel, and imagine the sweat on the brow of the body wielding the axe. But the pieces of wood remain glued to the metal links.

Sometimes a piece remains despite everything you try to do to remove it.

Maybe you just need to try harder to remove it. There has to be a way. Maybe you’re just not doing it right. 

Or, maybe it’s not meant to leave. There must be a reason it remains. Maybe you should just let it be. Learn to live with it. Let it sit there, incomplete. Hacked apart by previous attempts at removal, a reminder of steadfastness and to stay in the face of adversity.

Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s just a really stubborn piece of tree root.

Beautiful things: Devil’s Teeth Baking Company

April 1, 2016

Ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon rollImage borrowed from Serious Eats

Usually when I think of cinnamon rolls, I imagine the fluffy, pull-apart kind, dripping with butter and frosting. Devil’s Teeth Baking Company has created something… dare I say… pure evil?

My coworker brought a few of these lovelies in today, and the best (and most surprising) part is that the outer layer is crunchy. What is this black magic? Don’t cinnamon rolls bake together? How does this crunchy outer layer happen?

DEAR GOD. DO THEY FRY IT?

Beautiful things: Pavo Textile’s Etini Cobalt

March 31, 2016

There’s a certain magic to babywearing. One, it keeps your child so close that they are nearly always happy (“close enough to kiss” is the rule for proper baby height when wrapped on the parent’s body).  Two, it has eliminated so many parenting problems for me, including car seat abhorrence and lack of quality time after going back to work to name a few.  Traveling in particular is a breeze – wrap her up and there’s no crying, no complaining and most times, a great nap in there somewhere.

Three, they are devastatingly beautiful.

Case in point: Etini Cobalt by Pavo Textiles. Melt. Heart eyes.

Image borrowed from craftingoutloud.tumblr.com

When you become a mom, a lot of things immediately go out the window.  Time for shopping and fashion was the first thing to go, and any clothes I buy are online.  I used to have time to browse thrift stores and score awesome pieces at great prices, and now, well I’m lucky if I can find a pair of shoes I like online and get over my trust/quality barrier. It’s a pretty high barrier. However, buying Etini Cobalt took me, oh, maybe three seconds.

The weave. The colors. Guh. I just can’t part with this wrap, ever. I don’t know how I’ll use it after our babywearing days are over, but I’m confident I’ll think of something.

Image borrowed from theboysandb.tumblr.com