What I Did on My Summer Vacation
Those of you who followed our previous interstate move in 2006 know that it’s highly unusual for me to have said so little, thus far, about this new adventure, our move from San Diego to Portland. If I’ve been quiet here, it’s because there has been so. much. to say. Too much!
The move had been under discussion for months—years, really, some pieces of it—and in early June we decided that this summer, mid-August perhaps, was the right time. For one thing, there was a job calling me, one that will fit more amiably into a writing-teaching-homeschooling life than grantwriting did; and further, it’s an advocacy job made more imperative by this year’s perpetual threats to disability services budgets. Another consideration was the timing of our older girls’ college plans. And then we had long since outgrown our little San Diego rental, but had no prospect of moving into a bigger house at SoCal prices.
Long story short: it was time to move. I booked a ticket to fly up in late June to look for a rental with the help of Ron, one of my closest friends.
I was feeling pretty swamped in June. Lots and lots of work on my plate, and the idea of getting the household packed and ready to move by August seemed darn near impossible. When the appointment reminder came for my mammogram, I came very close to canceling it. After all, I’d had one only six months earlier. But the reason they wanted to see me again so soon was because that December one had been my first, so there was no baseline, and there had been a few little calcification specks that the radiologist wanted to keep an eye on. So I heaved a sigh and dragged myself, oh beleaguered me, to the appointment, grumbling all the way.
The cluster of specks was a bit bigger. Nothing at all to worry about, they assured me; these are quite common in women who breastfed; but we can’t send you on your way without doing a quick biopsy just to be extra, extra sure.
That was June 5th. The biopsy was scheduled for June 16th. On the 6th or 7th, Ron spotted a likely-looking rental prospect on Craigslist. He arranged for a showing on the 8th, bringing me along via Facetime. The house hit all the marks on our wish list—location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, good work spaces for Scott and me, a nice little backyard—except one: it was available on the first of July, not August, meaning that if we wanted it, we’d have to pay for it to sit empty for a good six weeks.
But we’re a big family, you know, and the Portland rental market is fierce—and likely to get fiercer as the summer rolled on. We decided to apply for the house. I still had my ticket for the end of June, so I figured I’d fly up and see it in person. I made a call to the special education department of the Portland school district and set up a meeting to see the school Stevie would be likely to attend. Scott and I began to consider moving a wee bit earlier, perhaps in late July, right after Comic-Con, to try to cut down on the overlapping rent. I would begin telling people, I decided, after that late-June trip.
The biopsy was on Friday, June 16th. I wasn’t worried about the results. Too busy with deadlines and panicked thoughts of the impossibility of getting us packed and moved in late July—and highly frustrated by being laid up for a few days to recover from the procedure, which had left me in more pain than I expected. I also had a new section of my four-week Comic Strip Capers class starting at Brave Writer on the 19th, so I was occupied in prepping for that.
To my utmost annoyance, I had to had to go see my primary doctor in person to get the results of the biopsy. When she broke the news (rather clumsily, truth be told), I had trouble believing it at first. Scott too. It took us a good 24 hours to wrap our heads around the reality of the words invasive lobular carcinoma.
Things I learned in the next few days: it’s a slow-growing cancer (whew), but it’s sneaky. We caught it very early—perhaps as early as it was possible to catch.
That was June 21st, the diagnosis. A Wednesday, and I was due to fly to Portland on the Saturday. We’d been flung into a whirlwind. What to do? Scrap the move, stay in San Diego? What about work? What about everything?
My doctor set up consults with surgery and oncology, but she couldn’t get anything earlier than July. I reached out to a doctor friend in Portland, who, bless her, connected me with a breast surgeon there. Here. And this surgeon was amazing. She understood my predicament, this preposterous timing, and arranged to see me on the Tuesday of my Portland trip, if I wanted to go ahead and get on the plane on Saturday.
So that’s what I did. On the Friday, Scott and I made the 45-minute drive to Torrey Pines to pick up copies of all my films and records. That long, traffic-congested drive certainly factored into our decision-making later. So did the July consult dates.
On Saturday the 24th, I flew to Portland. Ron took me straight to the house and it was even sweeter in person than on Facetime.
On Sunday, we went to the Rose Garden and I had a chance to breathe a little.
On Monday, I met with the special ed administrator and principal of Steven’s new school. It was a good meeting and I was pleased with the program.
On Tuesday, I met with the surgeon. She was awesome. And she urged me to have the surgery as soon as possible, ideally within a month of diagnosis, whether in San Diego or in Portland. It looked like we had caught the cancer before it hit the lymph nodes, so the sooner we removed it, the better. That complicated the timeline more than a little, because Comic-Con began on July 20. And the vacation schedules of the San Diego doctors were pushing things into a much later space if we chose to stay there.
I could keep going with the blow-by-blow, but you already know how it played out. The house that had been going to sit empty for six weeks was ready and waiting for us. We decided to give up Comic-Con and move to Portland as soon as possible. Which, thanks to hours and hours of help from our TRULY AMAZING San Diego friends, was July 11th.
My parents took the younger kids to Colorado for a couple of weeks during the move and the surgery. The rest of us arrived in Portland on July 13 and waited for the moving truck. My Brave Writer class wrapped up on the 14th. The truck arrived on the 17th. On the 20th—the first day of Comic-Con, when we would have been enjoying our annual curry date with our dear friend Jock, and then the Scholastic party and the CBLDF party—I had my surgery. We spent the two days before the surgery unpacking like mad. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it afterward and I wanted home to seem homey when my parents brought the younger kids to join us on the 24th.
The surgery went well. I was a little blue that weekend—I hated the way the pain meds fogged my brain, and I was sad to miss our 8th annual SDCC Kidlit Drinks Night—but the flowers and dinners and notes from friends and helped perk me up. And on the Monday, there was the fun of showing the new digs to the younger kids and my parents.
So here we are in early August, still weeks ahead of our original move schedule, unpacked, post-op, and settling in. The younger kids and I got library cards (and eclipse glasses!) this morning. Rose has already found a temp job.
Ever since that first awful news on June 21st, the news has been good. Caught early. Removed before it spread to the nodes. Very small. Last week the pathology report came back, and I learned that I won’t need chemo. That’s huge. I’m so relieved.
Since I chose the lumpectomy option, I’ll need radiation—daily for four weeks, beginning the end of this month. Before then, I’ll go in for my radiation planning appointment, which means, yes, I moved to Portland and am getting a tattoo straightaway. How cliché is that? 😉 Just a little bitty dot, though, I’m told.
Right now, I’m still recovering from the surgery (am mostly better) and look forward to being able to do some adventuring with my kids. I’ve been setting up my little studio, which I already love like an old friend. I’ve read nothing but comfort books since the diagnosis—The Railway Children, The Uncommon Reader, lots of Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey.
To sum up:
1. It all still feels a bit surreal. Cancer! Portland!
2. I am astoundingly fortunate in my friends, here, there, and everywhere.
3. I am overwhelmingly glad I didn’t cancel that mammogram.
So, um, how has your summer been so far?