So the thing about Inflammatory Breast Cancer- it's unlike the breast cancer story of my grandmother (a tiny pea-size lump was found) and many other women I've heard of. This may be due to how rare it IBC is. I thought about posting photos of what it looks like, but will refer you instead to ibcresearch.org for those pics and other information.
The breast specialist doctor in Boise I went to, who diagnosed me with mastitis rather than IBC, spent a lot of time explaining how important self-breast exams are. He said, "A lot of women won't exam themselves because they are afraid they might find something. But that's not the point. If I had my way, it would be called a 'breast self-awareness exam,' in that the woman would become so familiar with her breasts that she immediately can tell if something abnormal does come up and seek medical help in a timely manner."
So while I am so, so grateful to have dodged a breast cancer "bullet," and it is funny that Bag Balm (of all things) cured my ailment, let's all take breast health seriously.
And be pro-active about your health. I went to five doctors before I got a definitive diagnosis. If your "gut" is telling you something is wrong, keep seeking medical advice until you get an answer. The body doesn't lie. Many of today's healthcare providers are so bogged down with meeting government regulations with reporting, that they don't have the time they once had to be up-to-date with new or rare illnesses. It's not their fault- I truly believe they are doing the best they can. So that places the responsibility on each one of us to actively participate in our own health care.
Finally, I have to share this...
You never go wrong taking good care of yourself...
Since my husband Richard died in 2009, I have been
diligently working on a claim that his cancer was
service-connected. What this really means is that
I've been fighting the VA, insisting that the military
"own" their part of my husband's illness.
More times than not, I've asked myself, "Why am I
doing this?" For seven years, the mental and emotional toll of responding to their requests for more information, and then their denials is exhausting. I have cried many tears of frustration during all of this.
I was notified recently that I was scheduled for a
hearing in Portland at the VA office about my claim.
The photo to the right depicts how I had to emotionally arm myself for the battle.
I didn't know what to expect- the representative up there had not called to prepare me. So I wrote a statement outlining why I claimed Richard's death was service-connected. Armed with only that, I drove and cried my way to Portland.
I even stopped at Minam River and gathered 5 stones, for I truly felt like David about to meet Goliath.
When I got there, I was told "We're sorry. We could have done this in La Grande." I remained quiet- I had to choose my battles. The rep only had an hour to go over Richard's records with me. I didn't complain. What good would it do?
So we went into the teleconference hearing. It only lasted 15 minutes. I did get to read my statement. And when the television screen was logged off, the rep turned to me and said, "I think he heard what we were saying."
I was absolutely drained when I stepped out of the VA office in downtown Portland. I looked up to the skyscraping buildings and longed for the canyon walls of Imnaha. I wanted to be home.
And then I spied this...
Sometimes called "snake grass," sometimes called "mare's tail," it grows along the banks of Big Sheep Creek and many other waterways in Wallowa County. My heart smiled, and I left downtown Portland to seek the cemetery where Richard now rests.
It was a gloriously beautiful sunshiny day. The Willamette National Military Cemetery grounds are immaculately groomed. The grass was so full and lush, I removed my shoes and searched for Richard's grave marker. It had been two years since I had been here.
I met another Vietnam widow searching for her husband's marker. She found it while we exchanged our stories of taking care of our Vietnam husbands, who became sick and subsequently died from service there.
"I still miss him," she said.
I continued my search, still near the woman. She began to walk to her car, then looked back at me.
"Can I give you a hug?" I called.
She came to me, and as we embraced, I told her, "You know, when you take care of a warrior, you become a warrior."
She smiled and left.
A few more steps, and look who I found-
This is an "after" shot, for like I said, I had not been here for two years and grass nearly covered the stone. I used the pocket knife he had given me many years ago, and trimmed the grass.
I told him about the hearing, and heard his remonstrance before he died, "Don't even fool with the VA." But I know what the truth is, and I can say, after that hearing, I've done all I can regarding this claim.
I could not have been happier spending that time with Richard.
On the way home, I prayed. "God, I've done all I can. The battle now is between You and the VA. I pray that the Truth wins." This battle, as so many others, does belong to the Lord.
When I think of the phrase "Space Dust," it's not the debris from a space shuttle launch...
Nor is it the Milky Way suspended over the black velvet skyway...
Here in Wallowa County, "space dust" is the space a back country driver puts between herself and the truck ahead so she doesn't choke on the dust.
Here's what I hurriedly built to protect my raspberry patch a few weeks ago. My raspberries feel better about being protected, and the deer have never been so amused. But... it's working!
I was chatting with another writer early this morning. We were discussing the choices we have to make in order to carve out time and energy to write our stories. These changes may include quitting a "career" job or moving to another place.
"When you say 'Yes" to something, you're saying 'No' to something else. That's how it is with my writing," I shared with him. "Recently, I've been minimizing the number of obligations in my life so that I can write."
When we discussed how to determine these choices, I said, "When we choose to write, we can never go wrong. We may go hungry, but we will never go wrong."
Not sure "where" that thought came from, but I've been contemplating it all day.
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.