I apologize that I have not been here to write for awhile. I am overwhelmed by life. I believe that I have posted here that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother had breast cancer and she made it look like a walk in the park — lumpectomy, a few weeks radiation, all gone. So I didn’t take this seriously at first, at all.The first time I saw my surgeon she guessed me at Stage I, and thought we could go the same route my mother did. But I have lobular carcinoma, which is a kind of a stealth cancer. It grows in rows, which grow into sheets, rather than lumps, so it is harder to detect either by touch, or mammogram, or ultrasound. So I had an MRI, which discovered that the cancer had spread within my breast quite a bit more than they thought, and I was upgraded to Stage II and scheduled for a mastectomy.
Things took a turn for the nasty after the mammogram. They removed eleven lymph nodes, some of which looked suspicious and some of which the surgeon thought would be okay. All eleven of them turned out to have cancer in them. So the cancer was upgraded to Stage IIIC. This is the worst stage you can get and still have it considered curable.
I then had to have a PET scan to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere in my body. If they found any other cancer, it would be Stage IV, which they say is incurable. Why that is I don’t know. I mean, if they can kill the cancer in the breast, why can’t they kill it if it shows up somewhere else? I am sure there are things I don’t understand here, and thankfully I was spared having to figure them out, as the PET scan turned out to be clear.
I am right now waiting to start chemotherapy. It has been delayed and delayed for various reasons, mostly the lengthy recovery from the mastectomy. But I think I will get the all clear on my next visit and will probably be starting it within the next week. It is a 20 week course, eight weeks of two chemo drugs, followed by 12 weeks of another. I will lose my hair, that I have been told. After being afraid to get a pixie haircut all my life, I finally did, and I actually really love it. The bald look, as practiced with scarves and hats, doesn’t really suit me. But I just hope that is the worst I experience in chemo. I have to be honest, I am a little afraid. I am honestly most afraid of the suppression of the immune system. I live in a busy household, which includes two busy and social 20-somethings, a toddler, and four small dogs. My house is a germ festival. While I was waiting to start chemo, a late season cold that was making the rounds hit our house. I fought it off for a long time, ten days, but ended up getting it. The version I got was far lighter than what hit my daughter and her family. Under normal circumstances, my immune system is pretty good! I hope I can carry at least a bit of that into chemo with me, although the whole purpose of chemo is to kill kill kill, and that includes the good with the bad. Antioxidants during chemo are a no no. Why? Because their purpose is to help shield the cells from damage, and when you are on chemo, the whole purpose is to damage the cancer cells.
Meanwhile, I am a germophobe at the best of times. Chemo has really triggered that fear. Even pre-chemo, trying to stay healthy enough to start the darn thing, I find myself uncertain about going out. I have to wonder why in church they have to have that part where everybody goes around shaking hands and hugging each other.
Prognosis? I haven’t asked. I am assuming I will beat the cancer, in this round at least. Then I will somehow have to pick up the pieces of my life and put them back together again. I’m worried about being able to earn enough money to help support my family. I have spent most of my life caring for my family rather than earning money to help support them, stay at home mom. I remember when Michaela and I watched the movie Baby Boom, in which Diana Keaton is a high powered executive who inherits a baby and ends up quitting her job and moving to the country to be a full-time mom, Michaela cried and said, “When I grow up, I want to be just like you mom.” (Oh, Michaela. There are so many places for my heart to go here.) I keep thinking if I had my life to live over again, maybe I’d do it differently. But I probably wouldn’t. Even in my current life, over and over again it is family, it is the people, the children and the love and care and nurturing, that wins in my heart.
In the early days after my diagnosis a lot of people flocked to give me advice. At that point they all seem to have been diagnosed at Stage I breast cancer. I have since moved where they can’t advise me. Recently I have come into contact with a few people with Stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. They have moved beyond me, and sometimes I can feel the fear.
I think sometimes about dying. I don’t think I am afraid of it. In fact, I kind of feel as though it will be an adventure. Of course, I’m not facing it. I might feel differently if I was. But again, it is leaving my family that bothers me, rather than where I’m going. Who will be there for my children when they are hurting or lonely? And there are other things, of course. I have already experienced what it is like to be a burden on my family, just in the things I could not do myself after the mastectomy and the long, drawn-out recovery, and in the restrictions placed on their lives by my chemo, because they need to avoid getting sick also. I cannot imagine the burden of an actual terminal illness.
I am afraid of other things as well. I know, I have known for a very, very long time, probably since before Michaela was kidnapped but certainly since then, of the fragility of life. You cannot take anything for granted. Nothing. Nothing. Everything can change in a day. You can be going on, living your life, and not even know that there are evil things creeping up threatening your well-being. You can be washing the dishes, singing while you do it, while a few blocks away someone is kidnapping your little girl. You can be walking around thinking you are fine, but there is a cancer living inside you.
This has entered into my dreams lately, just the idea that there is a threat, someone or something who is stalking me, meaning me harm. I am hiding, layer upon layer, from this threat. I dream all the time about journeys. Perhaps the most telling dream I have had was of needing to travel home, and the road was submerged under several feet of water. I looked out at a vast plain I had to cross, with hills on the other side. I had a boat (or a car that would float), that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that without being able to see the road, I did not know where to go. How could I end up in the right place in those hills, where I could pick up the road again? I could feel myself in the middle of that vast body of water, lost. But I never actually set out across the water. The dream shifted, changed. Probably I was saved by a trip to the bathroom.
As for Michaela’s case, I guess you know that has shifted and changed as well. Our detective who was like part of our family has retired. I understand the new detective is one of the best detectives we could ask for. But he is not part of the family. He doesn’t call and say, let’s meet for lunch and talk, which is okay, really. He doesn’t tell me anything. I kind of suspect that is because there is nothing to tell. I have heard talk about HPD establishing a cold case unit in order to solve Michaela’s case, but I have heard a lot of talk over the years. Always there is “going to be” time, money, resources to solve this case that is 15, 20, 25, 28 years old.
I am convinced that this case is only going to be solved if someone with direct knowledge comes to us with that information. And if there is someone out there who knows where Michaela is right now, please tell me as well as the police. I don’t mean if you saw someone you think looks like Michaela. I mean if you know this person is Michaela Garecht, who was kidnapped at the age of nine. If you know Michaela is not alive, and know where she is buried, please tell us. There was someone who called HPD years ago and gave some information, but the investigators needed it to be narrowed down a bit, and if you are that person, please call back. 1-800-222-3999, and the detective is Robert Purnell.
Michaela, I just want you to know that I plan on being here for awhile yet, but if you are out there and alive it would be a good time to let me know. I had a dream once that I was dying, and I was saying goodbye to my husband and my kids. I told them I’d seem them in 30 years, but that I was going to see Michaela now. In the dream I started to get sucked up into the corner of the room, and that was dying. I knew I would come down on the other side of the wall. But suddenly I thought, what if Michaela is not there? And I woke up.
Confused, I’m juse confused. I have my head stuck deeply in the sand. I know I need to pull it out. Life is not over, and I need to keep moving, doing something, traveling down the road even if I have to swim sometimes. Your prayers are appreciated.
And Michaela, I love you, baby girl. Sometimes I don’t write. Sometimes I just don’t have anything to say that I think anybody wants to hear. But you are always in my heart. I always love you.