Jenna Days

It's always one of those days

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If anyone thinks I should not have shared this story, talk to my Aunty Babs, because she encouraged me.

I have a funny story about how this whole “I have breast cancer” thing started. Crazy right? Well I’m in a shitty mood today about things, so I’m going to write my funny story.

First, the back story:

A. and I have been together about 9.5 years, we started dating in college which was about 45min from my parent’s house, so we spent a fair amount of time there when we first started dating. My family already knew him because we’d been really close friends for the 3 years before and he’d been over many times.

Fast forward to 2 years ago, we’d been together for over 7 years, were married, and living in SF. I come back home for a few days the end of June by myself and my Mom flies back to SF with me. Somehow she tells me that she and my Dad were arguing that day about whether or not A. grabbed my boob in front of my Dad when we first started dating. This was the first I’d heard of this and was pretty much like “what the hell?” So my Mom proceeds to tell me that according to my Dad, A. grabbed my boob while we were sitting in the living room talking to my Dad. First off, My Dad is a very tall man and intimidating. Second, A. is a respectful guy. There is no way this happened.

So we get to SF and I tell my Aunty Babs and she tells me that the rest of the family has known about this for years, but she agrees it couldn’t have happened. It’s a very strange experience finding out that your family has been arguing about whether or not your now husband grabbed your boob in front of your Dad for around 7 years. Hilarious and strange. Obviously I never bring this up to my Dad because the last thing I want to do is discuss my boob and their proximity to A.

I had always assumed my Dad’s initial grumpiness about A. for the first few years was because he’s my over-protective father (he discussed buying land for my and my Brother to live on together in VT when I was in college, he thought I followed A. out to SF rather than came for my own interests, etc. A tad over protective of his daughter. The first two guys I dated came over to my house for the first times and he was cleaning his guns. True story.)

Another side note, my Dad loves A. now, one of his all time favorite people.

Fast forward to my diagnosis, which was a pretty shitty day for all of us. Dad is sitting in the dining room and A. is across from him both eating. I walk in and sit down rather smugly and say “This is going to be awkward for A., but I have one thing to say to you Dad.” I have both of their attention now.

"Remember that boob grab that you think happened, but totally didn’t happen?"

"How did you hear about that?" and some additional shocked comments from Dad.

"Whatever. Anyways, I just want you to know that A. grabbing my boob probably saved my life, because he found the lump."

My Dad sat there for a few seconds and then looked at A. across the table, grinned, and said “Nice grab” and high-fived him.

My father, ladies and gentleman.

Today I had my MRI and chest X-Ray. No info or news, I’ll get that next Thursday when I meet with my oncologist and surgeon. It was my first MRI and probably not my last, but I would totally vote to not ever do one again if that counts for anything?

So we had to leave at 6am for my MRI which is not a time that I enjoy being awake. I wore my Thailand pants, Atlantic City Firefighter shirt (hi Norm!), and my pirate head wrap.

I got to the MRI place and completely confused the technician when I told her I brought my own drugs for the MRI (they offer sedatives). We immediately had to cover that I had a prescription for them (I mean they were in a prescription bottle, it’s not like I took them out of my pocket) and that I had someone to drive me (she thought I didn’t for absolutely no reason at all and I told her I had two people, they could take turns). I brought my own because when I had lasik they gave me Valium (never had it before) and really felt shity afterwards for it. Moving forward, I’m not going to take drugs that I’ve never taken before during possible traumatic procedures. I have a prescription for anxiety meds that I take on airplanes when they’re scary (haven’t taken one since I get diagnosed until today, so that tells you how rarely I take them), but I know how they make me feel so I took one of those. If you have to get an MRI or something that may be scary and they want you awake and drugged, get them to give you one that you can take at home and see how you feel so that when you go in you’ll be prepared or can try something else.

The outfit they give you at DHMC is really something else. Thank god for the robe. I had to leave the shirt tied in the front because I was getting my boobs scanned (I’ve had 7 strangers look at and touch my boobs since this started now), and the shirt is gigantic so it doesn’t really close enough. The pants were 3X so those closed with a big loop open where you wouldn’t want a big loop open, but luckily they give you a robe that actually closes everything off. I immediately went into the reception area and told my parents to take a photo because I knew none of you would believe that the pirate bandanna was the least ridiculous looking thing I had to wear to my MRI otherwise.

I did a new business pitch for a hospital group last year all about preserving dignity for patients and it was definitely top of mind today.

I got to keep my wedding rings on for it which made me happy. A. is finishing the bar today in New Orleans, so good to have those with me. I met an older woman while waiting (also in a styling outfit like mine, minus the pirate accent). We talked about the pirate thing and she really liked it, she’s a breast cancer survivor and also not down with the pink ribbons (she doesn’t like pink).

The MRI was unpleasant. My tech was definitely someone who went into something partially because they don’t like people, totally fine, but kind of amusing/lame at the same time when you’re the one getting an MRI. I did not get any music offered and when I asked from inside the machine she either didn’t have my mic on (I think my machine was a bit bootleg from her comments about it) or ignored me.

It’s totally uncomfortable to lay on your stomach for a 1/2 hour in a tiny space with loud noises coming at you, even with an anti-anxiety med, padding, and ear plugs. I was in there for all 30 minutes and my arms started falling asleep in the 10 minute imaging session and that was really uncomfortable/irritating. My feedback to them on this would be to count down the minutes for the longer photos so you know how long you have left (there’s no sense of time in there) and also tell you how many photos in total you have left to do. It sucks being in there with no idea of how much progress you’ve made towards escaping your pod.

After I got out I found out that my Mom had tried to poison my Dad with some sort of pre-made egg white breakfast sandwich. He said it’s going to haunt him for a long time.

Then we went to the x-ray spot about a half hour early, but they got me in quickly which was nice. The X-Ray guy was hot, which is so not a perk. (side note for those that don’t really know me: I’m happily married). But anyways, the last thing I want is for some hot dude to be prodding my boobs, it would be so awkward. Luckily I got to keep my shirt on and there was no boob prodding. To be fair, I’d also like to avoid hot chicks with nice racks prodding my boobs through this experience as well. Sorry beautiful people, I just want you to stay away from my boobs through this. Other than the horrible MRI outfit, I felt like I escaped today’s appointments with my dignity more or less intact.

The hospital sent me a guide book to breast cancer, which totally pissed me off because it’s pink and it’s a guide book. So I’ve been reading it and it’s actually really helpful and informative. It also makes me have melt downs and sob, but those don’t last that long and so far the cats aren’t judging me. It is kind of funny though to go from looking at the pink cursive and scowling to sobbing within seconds, it’s a truly bizarre experience. From what I read, my goal is to avoid Chemo. I have no idea if it will be possible, but that seems to be the one that fucks up your body long-term and makes things happen that aren’t that bad in your 50s, but would be pretty shitty in your 30s (am I in multiple 30s if I’m only 30?) Again, no idea if this will be possible since I have no idea how good or bad things are, but it makes me feel a little better to have something to focus on that I want to try and avoid.

Alright, I’m signing off and going for a horseback ride and then up the mountain in my Dad’s new four wheeler. Happy Friday.

Yesterday was my first visit to the cancer section of DHMC. It unsurprisingly sucked. First there was a line of people waiting to check in and all of them older than me by at least a decade. The only people near my age were there as support.

The line really bothered me because everyone in it had cancer; couldn’t they do a number system so that they’re not making a bunch of people in various stages of treatment for cancer stand around? Seriously people, help me help you.

To be fair, I went in with a bad attitude. I was there mostly to meet with the genetics people and I felt like it was a waste of my time. To also be fair, 24 hours after the meeting, I still feel like it was a waste of my time. Given that I was already tested and the further testing they could do is way more imprecise and would let me know if I’m maybe more susceptible to other cancers (mainly ones where they’ll try and talk me into preemptively taking my lady parts that I’m feeling pretty attached to currently) it’s not something I’m interested in pursuing. As I’m just starting to figure out what’s wrong with me and what my options are to fix things, I could really give a shit about preventative care for other future issues that may not even occur.

We left it with them sending more of my blood to the lab that did my original test just to make sure they didn’t mix my test with someone else (highly unlikely, but possibly the same percentage chance of me getting cancer at 30 and not having the gene, so there you go).

The worst part was that there was a mix-up and I thought I was going to meet my oncologist for the first time and it wasn’t on his schedule. I kind of lost it then. I got really frustrated, but kept it mostly reeled in because as someone recently suggested, I am trying to get through this without being a “fucking bitch”. I know it’s going to be really frustrating a lot of the time with this, but it’s also not anyone’s fault, especially the people trying to help me get better and find answers. I may need to write that down for all future appointments.

Fast forward to me after the appointment waiting to give blood and the geneticist feeling really bad and coming out to talk to me. This makes me crack and tell her it’s just overwhelming and to have something I expect to happen not happen is just hard to take right now, so she keeps talking to me to try and make it better, and I’m sitting there trying really hard not to cry and wishing she would go away. So it goes.

Each day is a roller coaster. There are parts that are angry, sad, happy, funny, and just ok. The best thing has been all of the amazing messages I’ve been getting via email and Facebook. Pretty sure I’ve received over 100 of them so far. Over 200 people have read my first blog (I google analytics because I am a huge nerd). Today I got 3 packages of pirate stuff (thank you Laine, Brent, and Aunt Tricia). Pictures to come, Mom failed me trying to use the camera on A.’s phone.

Tomorrow I’m going to my MRI and chest x-ray with a pirate bandanna on.

Thank you again to everyone sending me love, warm wishes, prayers, and funny emails.

I went back and forth on how to headline this, along with some humorous options, but decided straight to the point would be the best. I recently was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’m writing this for a few reasons. The first is that I want my friends to know, but it is really really hard to tell people. It’s terrible news and I just can’t go through the conversation that many times so I thought this would be an easy way to share what’s going on. The second reason is that I want to write about it. I need an outlet and I think it’ll be helpful to post the updates in one location too (ok maybe that’s reason 3).

It’s pretty crazy to have just turned 30 and find out I have breast cancer. I’m defying all sorts of odds because I was actually tested for the gene earlier this year and came back negative. If I could pick, I’d use that odds defying skill to win the lottery instead of have cancer, but oh well.

Currently I don’t have a lot of information. I’m going in this Friday for an MRI and Chest X-Ray and then next Thursday will meet with an oncologist and surgeon to discuss the results and next steps. I think that’ll probably be when it gets scary. Right now it’s pretty inconceivable to me that I have cancer so it doesn’t feel real and I’m trying to enjoy each of these days because I know once it’s real I won’t be able to go back. So the waiting part is totally fine for me. I promise everyone who thinks “waiting is the hardest part” that when they actually start to fix me, it’s totally going to be worse. I am cool with waiting.

On the positive side, I couldn’t be in a better place to deal with things. I’m going to DHMC which is a great hospital, I don’t have a job right now to have to sort out, A. and I are at my parents and not paying rent, and my parents are here to support us. My Mom has had it twice so she’s practically an expert and great to have for explaining all of this overwhelming new information. Basically the only thing that A. and I have to do is work on me getting better without anything else to stress about and great support.

It may take me a little to respond to email, but I promise I read it immediately and it makes me feel great, it just takes me a little bit to respond. 

I have hated pink ribbons for a long time (see notes under my Facebook page for reference) so please for the love of god don’t send me any. I would prefer pirate flags. No particular reason other than they’re kind of bad ass.

I prefer “that sucks” to “I’m sorry” because it totally sucks, but there is nothing for anyone to be sorry about. If you say “I’m sorry”, I get the immediate urge to say “It’s ok”, which is not an appropriate response, so let’s just skip “sorry” and go straight to “this sucks” and then I can agree with you instead of saying “it’s ok”.

So this sucks, but I will get through this.

xoxo

Jenna

So even though I’m taking the summer off and hanging out in beautiful Vermont I’ve managed to get really sick. No stress or lack of sleep, but sick as a dog. Started out with flu like symptoms and have been stuck with a nasty respiratory thing for about a week now. I’m now on steroids and antibiotics, so hopefully I’m on the mend, but in the meantime, here’s a list of things I miss in my current state:

1. Non-noisy breathing

2. Not coughing

3. Not feeling things in my chest when I cough

4. Not being exhausted

5. Swimming

6. Wine

7. Beer

8. Saying no to exercise because I don’t feel like it, not because I can’t

9. Drinking tea because I enjoy it, not because I think it might make my chest feel better

As a reward for making it through this self-indulgent post, here’s the top responses to the poorly thought out VH1 and Robin Thicke twitter Q&A #AskThicke: Click it, you know you want to

Before we traveled to Yellowstone we visited Glacier National Park. It wasn’t a park I’d heard a lot about before we had some friends go there on their cross country trip last year, but I knew it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the country. It did not disappoint.

Well it might have disappointed just a tiny bit, but not on looks. Glacier is aptly named, even in mid May it was still covered in snow for the most part. Some of the lakes were still frozen, and we actually heard an avalanche while hiking. Because of this, we couldn’t drive the Going-To-the-Sun Road. Apparently this famous road opens fully at the end of June (at the earliest). Below is a photo of the road plowing progress while we were there.

(photo from the Glacier National Park flickr page)

What we could drive of the road was around the lake and it was absolutely stunning.

As you can see from the photos, when we arrived the lake was like glass so the reflection was crystal clear.

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I could write a love letter to Ko Tao. Definitely my favorite spot on the trip. We arrived in Ko Tao via our ferry speedboat around sunset. image

 We found our hotel pretty easily. We were staying in town which was a nice change from our previous stops because we could walk to food, massages, bars, etc. We rented two scooters the first day for around $7 a day each, hard to pass up a deal like that. Most of the “taxis” were guys on scooters, so also made a lot of sense for two people getting around a small island.
Ko Tao is known as a diving island, people come from all over to go to the many dive spots off the island. It also turns out that most of the beaches have great snorkeling right off of them. They also aren’t crowded because most people are diving. We rented snorkeling masks for about 75 cents a day and traveled to the local beaches. The roads were pretty bad and also really steep which was interesting at times with our sub par scooters. However, this also meant there were absolutely stunning views.

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I traded my scooter in after one day because the back breaks were shot. The guy tried to tighten them and I had to explain that the break pad was obviously gone, so that wasn’t going to work. Little did he know I am well versed in scooter break issues. Our first night we went to a japanese restaurant on a hill that over looked the bay and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We were on a porch overlooking it and it was lit up by the town and boat lights and just gorgeous. Food was great too.

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Alternative title: We got charged by a grizzly and chased by a wild mustang stallion.

spoiler: we survived.

The third stop on our road trip was Yellowstone (Glacier will get its own post later). Everyone who knows me knows I’m an animal lover, how you know me tends to skew what kind of animals you associate with me. Childhood would tend to make you think I’m a horse person, college would make me a dog person, and adult life would make you think in the cat and/or dog direction. I grew up with two parents who were animal lovers in Vermont with cats, dogs, horses, chickens, pigs, and the occasional turkey. Those were just the domestic animals. I’m a mostly indiscriminate animal lover who will get excited about pretty much any type, especially if they’re wild. There’s something really special about getting to observe a wild animal, it’s a gift.

Yellowstone was a place I’d wanted to go since I was a child and to go there exceeded all expectations. The first thing we saw crossing into the park were buffalo grazing right by the road. They were massive and completely care free to people stopping and taking photos. You really got the sense after being there a couple of days that these creatures really didn’t fear anything. They’d walk down the middle of the road at times and weren’t concerned when a grizzly or wolf was around either. They weren’t tame though, they ignored people and cars because they didn’t perceive them as a threat (or anything else).

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Almost two months to the day was my last day of work. Today I watched a wolf roam around for about an hour in the wild. Worth it. #unemployed #yellowstone (at Yellowstone National Park)

I’m a bit behind in my travel blogs and will continue my Thailand memoirs, but don’t want to get too behind on current day. We’ve just arrived outside of Glacier National Park in Montana after staying in Portland for two nights. Neither of us had ever been to Portland before and decided to give it a go before we vacated the west coast. We spent about 11 hours getting from San Francisco to Portland and did an air bnb in a nice family’s basement around 16th and E Burnside.

If San Francisco was clean compared to Bangkok, you could eat off the sidewalks in Portland. Our first night we got in and carried our many things from the back seat into our little room. Every place we stay except perhaps the place in North Dakota, we’ll be carrying half a cars worth of things inside and then repacking. We get to do this 7 times. We went for some ramen and then a walk across the bridge and then back to a bar nearby our place. Portland is in the basketball playoffs so it was sportstasic. Then in typical Jenna fashion, I got really sick and had to go home and that was my night. Left A. with a full beer to watch the game by himself at the bar. Typical me. There may have been an experiment in self-medicating that technically worked but also went horribly wrong. I’m not sure what the lesson was.

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Anyways, woke up the next morning and was fine, as also per typical me. We took a walk to a good coffee place nearby and on the way A. got a haircut (first one in many moons). I had an ice coffee which was a little crazy, but couldn’t resist trying it. I’m a coffee fiend and quit successfully last April, but in Thailand I started dipping into it a couple of times. We’re casually flirting right now, but I have to watch it or we’ll end up u-hauling again.

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