the future

I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear today. I wanted to hear that the breast surgery was the end of my struggle. But that was not meant to be.


I will need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It wasn’t a surprise. Those words have been spoken more than a few times since my diagnosis, but when they’re used in terms that are hypothetical and alongside “if” and “maybe,” they’re still safe and harmless. Now, they sting. It seems even more real now. This cancer is very real, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I can count it as a memory.

I’m scared.

My oncologist, Dr. Huy Nguyen, described chemo, and thinks that given my age and relative good health, it won’t leave me sick and weak. He told me about all the various precautions against nausea and secondary infections that come along with the chemo. He said to expect a treatment every two weeks for about two months.

He also told me that radiation treatments take only a few minutes, and that I’ll spend more time on the road on the way to the appointments than in the office itself. Apart from it being done every weekday for a few weeks, he made it sound pretty manageable; definitely not as hellish as I’d pictured, for sure. He described the fatigue I’d experience, but assured me that I won’t be helpless or bedridden.

That made me feel hopeful. Maybe this really will be just another story to tell; another anecdote. And on top of my normal course of chemo drugs, I might even be participating in a clinical trial.

After my meeting with Dr. Nguyen, I had my post-op appointment with Dr. Yee, my surgeon. She removed my drains. That certainly improved my mood. Having the drains wasn’t awful, but they were always in the way and awkward. It was hard to sleep with them and definitely hard to shower with them. I thought I was facing another week with them, but I’m healing quickly enough, I guess, to warrant early removal. I’m grateful for that.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, actually. I’m grateful that I don’t have liver cancer. I’m grateful it’s not one of my kids who is ill. I believe an important step in facing adversity is to find gratitude even in the smallest things, and I’m trying very hard to do that. But the fear is also still there.

But I took an important step in eliminating the fear today, too. I talked to Hubert Hayakawa, a psychiatrist at Kaiser. It was good to talk to somebody outside the situation for a few minutes; someone who doesn’t know me or my family, and if I get nothing else from him, I think I have some relaxation tips. I’m going to join a support group, too. The first meeting is in late April, around the time I start chemotherapy.

I know I have a happy, healthy future. But it’s further away than I thought.

23 thoughts on “the future

  1. Wow sorry to hear about the cancer. My family has have it fair share, there is a good chance that our family carries the Breast Cancer gene. My mom had breast cancer back in 1967/8, but her 4 sisters never got it. Half the aunts and one cousin on my dad’s side of the family had breast cancer.

    I felt a lump myself a couple of years ago and given my family’s history my doctor scheduled a mammography and ultrasound. I had to wait 3 weeks before my appointment , that was the longest 3 weeks of my life and of course I did not tell anybody, since I did not want to freak them out. I had the lump removed and it was benign .

  2. Well, dayam. I’m so sorry treatment wasn’t able to be limited to the surgery. In addition to your age and health, my guess is you’ll weather chemo and radiation very well because of your attitude. You’re truly amazing, Jen. Keep the gratitude going. It’s a wonderful treatment without a single side effect. In the meantime, my prayers will continue.

    Gentle cyber-hugs to you…Tutu Sue

  3. You are a warrior who knows no fear! God is with you. Your bravery to post this will help not only you but others who face similar situations. Keep fighting and never give up!

  4. Well, that’s some news on this beautiful Friday. Good job on taking the step to speak with a psychiatrist and will attend a support group next month.

    As Scott Branch wrote, God is with you, always. And you are in my prayers.

    Love!! Sending love!! And smiles!! And virtual flowers, and more!

  5. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and sending you well wishes. It’s ok to be scared, ok to have moments of doubt. Just remember all the people who love you and are pulling for you. Lean on those close to you as you need. They will consider it an honor to help and comfort. My best to you.

  6. I pray for you multiple times a day Jen. I know you can beat this. I love your statement “I know I have a happy, healthy future. But it’s further away than I thought.” It shows that you know you are going to prevail.

    Love you!

  7. Dear Jen,

    You, Ryan, the kids and your whole family are in my thoughts constantly.

    I’m sorry you have to go through chemo and radiation, but we understand it is all for the greater good. The Doctors want to be sure to destroy any lingering cells (if any). It is VERY normal to be scared (I was too). You’re doing a good thing joining a support group and learning some relaxation and meditation. Healing is not going to be just about healing your physical self, but also “You”. Going through cancer is life changing- to say the least.

    Your healing will take time and I feel you will do wonderfully. You’re a beautiful and strong woman. There is a light at the end of your fight! I found using a calender to use for as a countdown method; with being able to mark off days to the last of chemo and radiation. It was a goal to look forward to.

    When you get your clean bill of health be sure to throw a “I kicked cancer’s ass and won” party!

    xo K

  8. I am praying for you! My Mom had both Chemo and Radiation and she was older than you when she went through it. You can do it. Take the time listen to your body and rest when you need to. If there is anything we can do let us know!

  9. Big hugs, Jen. My mother and mother-in-law (85) had chemo and radiation. Both managed it surprisingly well and amazed us all with their strength. You have such a lovely family around you and you’re not afraid to express your feelings and fears. You have people around the world who think of you, send you positive thoughts and energy and keep you in their daily prayers. Thanks for sharing this with us and you’re daily in my thoughts.
    Love and hugs from Ireland. xoxoxoxoxo

  10. I forgot to mention that my aunt Sumi had chemo and radiation at the age of 83 and is now 90 years old , still lives my herself and does volunteer work at the VA

  11. You are definitely not lacking in the support, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to add mine to the bunch. I’m sure there will days of ickiness, but I know there will be more days of not.

    If you need some cinema therapy, check out “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.” Incredibly moving and inspiring…and a little funny too.

  12. I’ve been thinking of you and your family often during this trying time for you. I pray you make it through this in good spirits and renewed good health. And I’ll look forward to the return of Popspotting when you’re able to resume it!

  13. Thanks for the update; I’ve been wondering. I think the fear is inescapable in this situation, but your attitude is just what you need to kick cancer’s ass.

  14. I’m sorry to hear this, Jen. You are incredibly strong, and I wish you strength in the coming months. You are in my thoughts and prayers, my friend!!!

  15. Jen, you are an inspiration. Not just your positive attitude but your generosity is sharing what’s REAL. The doubts and fears that anyone would have.

    I hope your support group (the “formal” one) gives you as much as I know they’ll GET from having you with them.

    Love and best wishes for light and humor and magic along the way. You and your beautiful family are in my thoughts every day.

  16. I think you are a wonderful, brave, strong, positive person. I believe you WILL kick this. If you experience nausea, you might want to try eating ginger (seed/candy/etc). I bought these hard ginger candy balls (repackaged by a local snack company…sorry, I forgot the name) for my friend’s mother when she was going for chemo and she said it helped lessen the nausea. I think you can find it at Wholesale, Longs and DonQi. My very best to you —sending you positive thoughts and energy all the way.

    P.S Update: My mother went thru her biopsy last Thurs. This past weekend was the longest we ever experienced. I never in my life watched so many movies on Netflix (tried to lighten up her surroundings and keep us from overthinking and worrying after the biopsy). Today it’s D-Day when we meet her dr. We’re scared and prepared for anything, but trying very hard to be positive. It’s tough…but let’s keep smiling and laughing, ok?

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