Saturday Happenings and Random Thoughts

Swam my last Saturday morning masters for a while.  I’ll be back as soon as I can, but I know it’s going to be a long road back, especially getting to the pace and lane I’ve been swimming in.  I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am, I’m going to have to work twice as hard to get back.

Next up was a short outside ride, it will be a while before I’m doing any outside rides again.  And I was reminded why the surgeon said I should stay away from road riding or even running outdoors for a while.  While turning around on a cul de sac I was literally tackled from behind by a loose dog that I didn’t even see was loose.  Well, he wasn’t loose when we passed him, he was being held by his owner.  The dog wasn’t struggling to get away or barking or anything that would have given me an idea I should be worried.  Next thing I knew, a hard strike to the back wheel and down I went, in what felt like slow motion.  That happened at the same time I heard my friend Ben saying something about stopping for a dog.  He watched it all from behind.  I only landed on my knee.  No damage to my bike or my new Coeur Sports bib shorts thankfully!  It is the first time I wore them.  PS — I absolutely love them.  Very comfy, not too bulky of a chamois and the side zip on the leg is a bonus for sure.

Some other very random reasons why everything is going to be okay and a few other somewhat illogical thoughts.

  1.  I finally have Enve race wheels.  I’ve ridden them just a few times in training.  I still need to use them in a race.
  2. I just got my Global Entry Number, it cost $100 and is good for five years.  I need to use it.
  3. I have an awful lot of nice clothes, both workout and “regular” that I need to wear more.
  4. I already paid in full for my premium share of vegetables for the upcoming season from Honeybrook Organic Farms.  I need to be able to cook and eat them.
  5. I almost bought a really cute new bathing suit this week for our vacation.  I tried it on and realized that I may want to wait till after my surgery.  Not that I’m worried about showing a scar.   I just probably won’t want to be exposing it to the sun, at least this year.
  6. I’m still fretting over first world problems.  I’m worried that I won’t be able to go to my gym since I’ll be at a high risk for infection.  Someone else I know with cancer is worried because if he can’t work it will be a struggle to support his family.

It’s a Good Thing I’m Good at “GSD”

I’m on a couple of sub-committees as part of the Women for Tri Board, we often refer to “GSD”.  (Get shit done!)  Well, it’s a good thing I’m good at it because yesterday’s 4:00 PM phone call from Memorial Sloan Kettering (from now on referred to as MSK)  to set up my genetic counseling appointment certainly took some quick action on my part to make it happen and get results before my surgery.  I have a pretty booked schedule between now and leaving for St. John’s and then my surgery, and I didn’t factor in another trip to NYC.
MSK:  “We are calling you to set up your appointment to discuss your genetic testing”
Me:  “Okay, can you do it when I come into NYC on April 6 for my pre-op stuff?”
MSK:  “Sure, but it takes about two weeks to get the results.”
Me:  “Okay, so let’s schedule it for April 6.”
And I continued with my pre-prom pedicure appointment with my niece.

But, then I started thinking about.  And made a quick phone call back to MSK.
Me:  “So, if I wait to do the testing until the day before my surgery I won’t have the opportunity to make a decision about what type of surgery I have.  And if it comes back that I have the “gene” and would then decide to get a double mastectomy it would mean a second surgery.”
MSK:  “Yes.”
Me:  “Okay, can I come in tomorrow?”
MSK:  “Yes.”
So there you go, everything else I had planned for today out the window.

Got home last night and found an awesome hoodie and note on my front porch.  I followed Daphne’s journey and rejoiced in her remission.  She was diagnosed at 12 years old with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 2 A.   Treated at CHOP, chemo and radiation @ U PENN. In remission since November of 2016.  She’s now in high school.  If she did it I can do this too!

One priority I’m not letting go of is my morning workouts.  My friend Ben is still training for IRONMAN Lake Placid so we met at 7 AM for his 2,500 yard swim workout.  I still don’t swim like someone with cancer.  That day will come soon enough

I will keep the long version of the genetic counseling and testing to myself for the moment but it’s something I’m glad I’m able to do, not just for myself but for my daughter and my nieces and their future health  I didn’t really have many questions until I have results.  I did leave with information to read and some resources other than “Dr. Google”.

My laugh out loud moment for today is courtesy of my long time friend and my coach for many years, Brian Shea:  “I heard some news today about this friend of mine w/ a little fight on her hands.  So I say… ‘anyone who’s spent a night in the SkyTop  Lodge, can beat pretty much anything’ 😜”


We Have a Plan

Okay, there is the start of a schedule.  I guess it’s going to take the place of my training plan for now.  I worked out this morning, made sure to swim and run since I didn’t know what today would bring and if either of those two things would be restricted (they aren’t, for now).  I thought a few times while I was swimming this morning that I don’t feel like someone with cancer.  I don’t swim or run like someone with cancer.  But, guess what?  I have cancer.  And that hit me hard.  Especially when we entered the building with this sign outside.


Okay so first off what a beautiful facility and what kind and caring employees but really?  There are really this many people in the NYC vicinity with cancer????  Wow.  So — paperwork, forms, signatures, insurance cards, photo ID, etc.  Finally, in a room with a nurse, then a doctor.  For the first time, I met Dr. Mohamed El-Tamer. He has come highly recommended from two friends who have undergone extensive breast cancer issues.  Right now the conversation, examination, etc. are all a bit of a blur but here’s the bottom line.  It’s still cancer.  It’s still invasive ductal carcinoma.  It’s stage one, that’s new news.  Although they still need to perform an injection of dye before surgery he is pretty confident there is no node involvement.  I will need both chemotherapy and radiation after.  I will lose my hair.  Crap, I like my hair!  He said it will grow back better.  I wonder if it will still be grey, I mean blonde?
So here’s the new schedule:  Monday, March 27 is pre-op testing at the Sloan Kettering satellite facility in Middletown NJ.  Family vacation in St. John’s from March 28 until April 5th.  Dr El-Tamer said that it is absolutely fine!  April 6th, pre-op prep in NYC.  April 7th, lumpectomy.  April 17, post op follow up.  April 27, consult with oncologists.  3 to 4 months of chemotherapy and radiology to follow.  Twice a week.  When I explained my plans for the season the surgeon looked at me very calmly and said: “not this year”.  My response?   “These weren’t my firsts and they won’t be my last”.

According to the doctor, I will have very few limitations from surgery.  Especially about working out.  I have a feeling that the chemo may not be so forgiving but, we shall see.  I gotta take this one day at a time.

Some questions answered.  About 25% of women with breast cancer have this type of cancer.  After 5 years if it doesn’t come back I’m good. Five years is a long time.  They will do genomic testing since my mother died from breast cancer.

Every message I’ve received over the last week and especially today has meant so much to me.  Really.  A few comments made me laugh out loud.  A few made me smile about good memories.  And quite a few made me tear up.   I love my family, I love my friends.  I love and count on my Jersey Girls and my Coeur team.   You guys really are the best!    This truly sucks.  But, for some reason, I still feel like I’m blessed.

Dear cancer, you were not invited.

Dear cancer, you were not invited.  Now please fuck off.  Cheers, Moira

I’ve been talking about getting back to blogging.  This isn’t what I wanted to write about.

It has been a rocky few weeks for me.  Starting with the hugely annoying undertaking of finding a place somewhat locally to get a routine mammogram.  I had a place I went to every year with my aunt but she moved away and the facility closed.  I found another place eventually and had a bit of a scare.  A follow-up sonogram, a stressful few weeks and then a needle biopsy returned the results of “just a cyst”. When I called to go back a year later I found they no longer took my insurance and a few more calls turned up nothing.  I put it on the back burner.  For another year.

I’ve been systematically cleaning out some hidden corners, drawers and piles around my house and while sorting out a stack of papers I had been avoiding I found my old mammography prescription.  I literally spent two and a half days on the phone with my insurance company and calling radiology facilities and finally found a community health facility in Lakewood that accepted my insurance.  I called my ob/gyn’s office to get a new prescription and also scheduled a regular checkup with him.

My routine mammography was scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd.  A very nice facility with a lovely technician who informed me that if there was a need for anything beyond routine I’d need to follow up at another facility.  Oh, great!

Dr. Kaufman called me a week later, on Thursday, March 9th.  I needed to go for a sonogram.  This time I didn’t even make any more calls to local facilities.  My next option was expanding the search to New York — first Staten Island and then Brooklyn.  Staten Island facilities gave me appointments over a week later.  I found a place in Brooklyn, right over the Verrazano Bridge that had an appointment available on Monday, March 13.  Not wanting to delay and torture myself mentally I grabbed that appointment, went to Chemed in Lakewood to pick up my images, told Bryan what was going on and that I needed him to take me to Brooklyn on Monday.  Anyone familiar with the 5 boroughs knows that parking is challenging at best.  I was at Bay Ridge Medical Imaging from 9:30 AM till 1:30 PM and guess what, Bryan never found a parking spot.

I was starting to feel a bit uneasy and explained to the office staff why I came almost 60 miles from New Jersey and received a lot of insurance related sympathy.  They couldn’t have been nicer and they were in constant communication with Dr. Kaufman to get the necessary prescriptions for first a sonogram and then a needle biopsy.  I asked the doctor at the facility what the chances of it being a cyst again was and she very matter of factly informed me that it was not a cyst and that it would need to come out.  This was a much more painful and lengthy needle biopsy than the last one, and the technician informed me that there were now “titanic” clips inserted to guide what needed to be removed.  I kind of figured she actually meant “titanium” (and thought about my titanium Litespeed Saber) and it almost made me laugh but I actually started to feel even more uneasy.    The office promised me that the samples would get out to the lab that same day, but it could be Friday before I heard anything.

Since I knew I would have to have some sort of surgery I called a friend who has battled with breast cancer and found out she had recommendations from her own personal experience at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC.  I called the offices, checked their website and found the best possible information — they are preferred providers for our insurances and any doctor connected with the facility also accepts the same insurances.  I wrote down the information for when I had something to call about.

I still hadn’t heard anything by Thursday and I finally just couldn’t stand the waiting and called Dr. Kaufman’s office.  Nope, they had nothing and suggested I check the radiology facility.  I called them — they had nothing and it said it could be the following week before I heard.  Oh great!

I was home on Friday afternoon, hoping for a call from someone but also dreading a call.  I sent Bryan off to the Shillelagh Club St. Patrick’s Day party while I finished up making some Irish Soda Bread I promised to bring.  At 2:15 I saw a Red Bank number calling on my cell phone.  It was Dr. Kaufman.  I grabbed a pen and paper.  He said I’m sorry to make this call but I know you are anxious.  “It is cancer.  You have invasive ductal carcinoma.  You will need a surgeon and most likely an MRI.”


Okay, it’s now 2:30 in the afternoon on Friday, St. Patrick’s Day.  If I’m going to get anything put in place I better get moving.  I literally used both phones to make calls between Sloan Kettering, Dr. Kaufman’s office, and the radiology lab.  The surgeon’s office said they could probably get everything in place for me to come in on Thursday.  I said what do you need to get me in on Monday?  She told me, I wrote it down and got it done within the hour.  I’m good at taking action.   I have an appointment with the surgeon on Monday, March 20th at 1 PM.  Okay, now off to the Shillelagh Club where I proceeded to drink heavily.

I’ve personally spoken to my family, and some friends — mostly those who have been through this.  I’ve done some searching on the internet — big mistake.  I sat at lunch yesterday discussing the possibility of chemotherapy and radiation with my husband.  Then I stopped myself and thought wow, did I really just say that?  Yea, not what I ever thought would be part of a discussion about me.  A little over a week ago I was discussing my training, our family trip to St. John’s and my upcoming race schedule — which included the Boston Marathon, Eagleman 70.3 and Ironman Lake Placid 140.6.  I had also been hoping to get back to the start line in Kona again this year.

Thanks to my friend Hailey for the blog title, by the way.

If I haven’t spoken to you personally please don’t be offended.  I’m overwhelmed.  I’m angry.  I’m scared.  I’d like to be in denial but that isn’t working out real well.  I’ve asked some friends and family to reach out to other friends tomorrow to let you know personally what is going on. I’ve decided to handle this openly.  I’m hoping it will help me, that it will help avoid rumors and maybe help someone else in the process.  If you get nothing else from this, please go get that routine annual mammogram.  I had absolutely no sign that anything was going on.  Even now that I know where it is I still can’t find it myself (or the “titanic” clips!).   I feel great and am as fit as ever.  I don’t know if I need anything right now.  If I do, I’ll be sure to ask.  I’m not really sure I want many phone calls at the moment.  It’s a bit easier to write about what’s going on than to talk about it.  If you call me and I don’t answer please don’t be offended.

I’m going to leave this here for tonight, and publish it before my appointment on Monday.  I’ll get back to everyone with an update once I’ve caught my breath (I’m not expecting this to be easy) and once I have some more details to share.   I’m thinking I’m going to need a lot of heart and courage in the upcoming weeks.