Voila! *Papier Creatif!*
Believe me - I NEEDED therapy! This is a picture of Jessica, Georgie and me in front of my sister's house in Oklahoma City. It was the day after we had "adopted" Georgie-boy! Keep in mind that I am not wearing any make-up and had spent 2 days searching online for this little guy. One of those particular days, I did not shower or come out of my room! I was determined to find the right puppy for me! After I found him, Jessi and I took a road trip to a breeder in Oklahoma to get my *baby boy*. He's a tri-colored Papillon -- there will be more photos of him to come. He's absolutely the most outrageous puppy we've ever had! Gotta love him! And I'm not *winking* at the camera, that's my eye sewn shut from reconstructive surgery. (More info below ...)
Scrapbooking is also *addictive*. I savor shopping at craft stores & websites to find the latest trends in papers, metal accents, ribbons, & tools. This is one area of shopping that I will spend hours to handpick accents for a project or to find a cool paper that inspires an idea for a few future projects! I found myself justifying this little addiction to my husband, "I want to do a scrap book album for each of the kids for Christmas! It was $300, that's only $100 per child." There are so many new & beautiful things out now, that it can be difficult to control the impulse to add "just one more thing to my scrap book collection." And although I have a design studio with adequate ways to store things, it's hard to pass by cool work stations that companies like Pottery Barn sell! I'm a decorator, I love "redos", so this is a REAL temptation for me! And budgeting is great, but sometimes sacrificing in other spending areas to make it *right* is worth it!
So! How did I wind up on Blogger.com talking about scrap booking? Three scary words - BASAL CELL CARCINOMA. Quite a journey actually! An interesting one, as I've learned a little about Ophthalmology and the complex & delicate nature of the eye. Initially hearing these words from the 1st surgeon I consulted with, spiraled me into feelings of despair and disbelief. And facing any threatening illness causes many of us, including myself, to immediately look inward and to alertly focus in on what truly matters in our lives. If his diagnosis was correct, I faced undergoing the process of lower eyelid tissue removal, graft and reconstruction. My eyelid would be sewn shut for at least 6 weeks - it turned out to be 8. Knowing I needed to rest in order to heal my body, I decided to work on scrapbooks for my children. I wanted to do something nice for them, that was all about them, since I had worked and focused on so many others through my decorating business.
Basically, I am a *Doer*. No question. You'll rarely find me watching television and I'm generally an "as needed shopper". Outside of shopping for design clients, I prefer to stay home and work on projects. I love keeping busy with my hands. I love the process of designing things. I love creating. I love improving. This aspect of my personality is driven by perfectionism. Taking something and making it better or beautiful. Taking an idea and setting it into motion. Perfectionism imparts itself into my home and my career. Also, it will invariably inflict itself into the lives of my husband and family! They some how put up with it. Yet, this illness forced me to instill changes that needed to happen. It forced me to sit still & listen to my heart instead of my head for a while. It allowed me to connect more deeply with my husband, my children, & my Faith. I believe I needed this time to mend not only my eye but also the tattered edges that come with family, from focusing on career and self. I am thankful for the 2 months of my eye sewn shut to clearly behold the beauty of my family, to celebrate the moments of Us by scrap booking memories and to let them know how important they all are to me.
This is the very long version of my experience with basal cell carcinoma of the eyelid. I am blogging this as a *THANK YOU* to my wonderful Friends & Family, who stood by to support me & love me, as I went through this very scary experience. Skin cancers will affect 50% of adults over the age of 50. Some areas of the world are worse than the US. There is no question that the sun has intensified. Additionally, the eyes are delicate. They are windows to our souls. Protect them whenever you are out in the sun by wearing UV protectant sunglasses. And - wear sunscreen! If anyone would like to contact me regarding this, feel free to email me. I can assure you that the right surgeon can make your eye look near perfect. My recommendation is to use a Board Certified Occular Plastic Surgeon, in the unfortunate event that you or loved one are diagnosed with this disease.
I was originally diagnosed with a Chalazion on my right, lower eyelid. I found that odd since I had never had any previous eye problems nor any family history. Then, several ducts of my lower right eyelid started becoming clogged and inflamed, which was eventually diagnosed as Blepharitis. Blepharitis is a general medical term for eyelid inflammation, as there are different types/causes that relate to it. I was curious, concerned and literally spent months and months researching this blepharitis-thing. I eventually resigned myself that I would have this condition for the rest of my life. However, from what I had read online about this disease, the question that kept churning in my mind was *Cause?*. What was causing the blepharitis? After several rounds of antibiotics, surgery, pokes, and lacrimal gland irrigations, changing Ophths within the practice, I blurted, "Hey doctor? The antibiotics? They ain't workin!!" I said this in a pointed, get-your-attention kind of way to suggest that he take a closer look at my case. My eyelid simply was not improving. I had tried everything in my power at home, took lots of vitamin supplements, and studied possible causes in an effort to clear it up. I even thought it may have been caused by my new puppy, GiGi, that perhaps I had Demodex Mites! This is an example of how crazy Blepharitis can make people.
I joined an informative & supportive forum for blepharitis. I received a lot of information, advice, and support from new friends in the UK and Ireland. I researched many, many hours trying to figure out ways to get my eyelid well. There is a surgical cure for basal cell cancer (95%); however, blepharitis is very difficult to manage without a long term cure. I wrote to the AAO and to researchers about studies and potential treatments utilizing UV light. Many of my friends on the forum are kind hearted and I am grateful for having the opportunity to meet them online. I'm not so sure I've escaped blepharitis, my eyes still drive me nuts.
Once home, I called Norma, a close British friend who is also our next door neighbor. She is the oldest of my friends, yet has the youngest spirit. Typically willing to run here and there with me, the woman constantly has about a half-dozen unfinished projects going on that she updates me on each time we speak. Although repeating herself often in the course of one conversation, I listen intrigued with the way she can "flower up a sentence. She took elocution lessons as a young girl in Britain and speaks with a whimsical rhythm & charm. She has flaming red hair & high-energy to match! She's another wonderful confidante, born on the same day as me, September 7th. Her Grandmother told her that to be born on the 7th is a "lucky day", which means we'll have "lucky lives". We try to convince ourselves of this frequently. It's typical for us to yell across our backyards at each other, when I see her out gardening, "NOH-MAH!?" (That's Norma in a gaudily rambunctious, British accent). She'll counter back "JUL-LEE!?" (That's Julie in a British accent - except hers is real). Sometimes it's her cue to come on over which she often does tucking a bottle of pink bubbly away in a shopping bag along with 2 glasses. We've sat outside near our pools, on our porches or atop my balcony absorbing the view & savoring her Pink Chardonnay. That evening, Norma rushed over and I wept in her arms. I was afraid that I wouldn't look the same. I was concerned I could lose an eye, if it turned out to be severe. Neither of us could believe it fully, although my gut knew it was cancer. I know she loves me. She coddles my family and fusses over my youngest daughter, Jessi. She dresses fashionably, "fancy" as her husband calls it. Often there are ruffles, layers and thickly jeweled blingage. She's supportive of me & never shy about sharing her views or opinions about business or my life. She's also never shy about saying how much she cares about me, how talented I am, and brags to friends and strangers (as many as she can) that "I am THE ABSOLUTE BEST at decorating!" Her husband, a retired FBI agent, was supportive as well. He suffers from glaucoma and we'd exchange info and commiserate often. Bill is a sharply intelligent man and often lends advice & an ear. And even though he can't see very well, he always tells me I look beautiful. Sometimes I'll bring him chocolates, little treats he *hides* and later enjoys. Marty and I have had wonderful dinners with them because they always tell us a good story about traveling & politics. They've made living in my neighborhood feel like community. Norma and I would try to talk the cancer away over courses of visits & phone calls. "It isn't cancer, Julie! I am SURE you don't have cancer! Get the pathology report faxed to you! Make them prove it before they cut on your eye!" I love Norma for giving me the will to think positively. But, no dear Norma, it was cancer.
Later, another one of my dearest friends, Claudia arrived. She is a brown-eyed, brunette very spirited friend, is 1/2 French and 1/2 Italian. We always joke that "It's the French in us!" that has bonded our friendship in some ancient-cosmic way. I am a little touch of Canadian French, however, I love their architecture, historical design & art they house at The Lourve, so I list French at the top of my ancestorical lineage. She's been a very dear friend of my family since 1984. She's like an Auntie to my children. We met in the parking lot of our apartment complex in Dallas, TX. She saw that I was wearing soccer shoes (she also played soccer), and lonely for some new friends, called out "Diana?!", a Kentucky friend of hers I remind her of. She's outgoing, fun and has a true knack for conversing socially. This is a characteristic she learned from her father who is a retired salesmen. She recruited me for her soccer team and we played for years. We lost touch with each other after she married for a good 10 years, living only 15 minutes apart! She saw my company van driving down FM 2499 and called me from her cell phone... "This is Julie ...", I answer. "Julie Horner?", she asked. I hesitated wondering whether I was in some kind of trouble. "Yes?", I replied. "Look in the Corvette behind you!", she laughed. "OH MY GOD! CLAUDIA!" I followed her to her home, we drank wine and I redecorated her family room shelves while we caught up. I do this impulsively for all my loved ones, whether they want me to or not! The night she learned about the suspected diagnosis, she put on a very good front, but I instinctively knew she was bowled over with concern for me. I knew she was acting "brave", as ALL my friends did. The eyelid is such a small, delicate area of the face and there is little room for mistakes. I could feel her fear in the small, quiet moments between us, as it cut through the air. She brought with her our standard bottle of red wine, signature raw humor and infectious laughter. Hey, if it's cancer, then we are gonna do or say something to make it funny, to make it bearable, to make it seem less serious than it was! No one can be around 'Cloudy' without laughing. To hear her laugh makes you laugh, then she laughs louder and harder and so do you, until your sides ache and you can barely breathe! It could have easily killed me, more quickly than cancer, for lack of oxygen!! She spent many, many evenings prior to and after my surgeries simply being there for me. We'd watch HGTV together, gossip and sip our wine. She was determined not to let me get down. She'd say, "Yea! Yea! Milk your eye for all it's worth!" That's when I'd joke that she'd have to agree to something I wanted to do because I had EYE CANCER! She'll say this to me frequently, when I gear up for a rant, "Let's change the subject, Juls ..." Yes, I can be a real Drama Queen. The *pack of us* are!
Jamie decided that she would drive me to my 2nd surgeon consultation. Jamie is a beautiful, devoted mother of 4, who works along side her husband, David, in his construction business managing their office and accounting. She has a continual smile on her face. Like me, she enjoys hashing out details in every aspect of her life! And while Claudia laughs at everyone, Jamie grins at everyone! One of her 3 sons eagerly showed Claudia & I his impression of her one night. Too funny! Her daughter is a tiny replica of Jamie and is definitely a *Princess* that I've nicknamed, *Snowflake*. I always admire their holiday family photos & wonder how in the world Jamie can manage to get it all done, on top of making everyone in her family look perfect for the photo! Not only is she highly creative, she is also highly analytical. Smart & quick as a whip! She will consistently think of options or solutions while we decorate together on my client's projects or at her home. We are both night owls & have often find ourselves working late at night, once till 2 am! We even got 'scolded' by a client for giggling uncontrollably while decorating her house for Christmas. It only made us laugh even more at the silliest things! She's always open to me whipping her accessories & holiday decor around. I'll see her mind question me, then she'll sweetly agree to appease me. And ... I gotta say, she always LOVES IT! We've spent many late hours Christmas decorating, drinking a little vino & having fun all the while! She's also my "Faith-Builder". We've always shared our views and feelings about religion, family and life. She is a positive, supportive and very understanding friend.
Prior to surgery, we planned Jamie's 40th birthday party. It turned out to be an awesome bash, New Orleans shrimp boil, band, and I must say, the tables we adorned were *spectacular*! I needed to have something else to focus on during that time. It helped take my mind off the inevitable. We went shopping, dressed up, had the hair done and partied till the wee hours! I remember trying my best to act bravely that night but I was a mess inside. And as I watched Jamie & her husband, David, dance alone while everyone was timidly considering to dance, I grabbed Marty and we twirled along side of them in celebration! It was so fun! My smiles were bittersweet: cheerful for Jamie, yet simultaneously scared for myself. I felt my life was going to change and there was uncertainty in every single aspect of it. I dreaded the cancer, the surgery, the uncertainty of my life and the uncertainty of life itself. Claudia came along with us. Everyone loved her party and I was elated that Jamie was delighted.
The Morning of the Biopsy -- My husband, Marty, and I drove anxiously to the surgical center. It was a very long drive for the both of us. We were both on edge & stuck in a traffic nightmare. The sound of the radio pierced through me annoyingly, so I turned it off. I felt a lot of irritation and could not understand how my health had gotten to this point since I am proactive about it. You know, the "Why me?" thing. My heart was racing from adrenaline being flat out scared of what the outcome would be. Not being certain about a problem is far worse than knowing. We approached the surgical center and my heart dropped. Marty parked and I felt unsteady on my feet as I got out of the car. The inevitable walk into the building, my stomach felt a pit in it -- I stopped just beyond the double doors, faced Marty holding his arms and pleaded (okay whined like a baby) "I don't want to go in there... I don't want to go in there!" He stood steadily and patiently in his calming way. I rolled my eyes and said, "Okaaaay, gosh ..." and we walked on in. I signed in and waited. When my name was called to complete the medical forms in the back office, tears mechanically dropped from my eyes. I tried to casually hide this from a patient signing-in across at the waiting room window. The staff quickly realized they had a highly 'EMO' woman on their hands! Word like that spreads quickly. The administrative assistant handed me a tissue and, thankfully, didn't return me back to the waiting room where I dreaded embarrassment due to all the emotional turmoil.
I was led down the hall and the presurgical prep program began. "What is your name?" I answered with an unusually meek voice. "Birthdate?" Well, who likes giving that info out? "Who is your doctor?" I almost couldn't remember! "What procedure will he be doing for you today?" I stood trembling slightly, clutching my Kleenex, & borderline defiant because I felt I REALLY SHOULD NOT HAVE WOUND UP HERE in the first place! I just couldn't say it... The nurse strongly and unemotionally looked at me and repeated, "Ms. Horner? .... What procedure will he be doing today?" More damn tears and zero sympathy from the nurse at this point "Geez? Don't I derserve a little sympathy?! I may have my eyelid cut off!", I thought critically to myself. "Uhm... a biopsy ...", I begrudgingly replied. "Yes maam, and what else?" I looked at the nurse and back down at her papers knowing she was simply confirming the surgery for legal purposes, tears welling up then falling in slow motion to the floor, the words stuck in my throat "... and ... a possible eyelid reconstruction ..." "Alright now, and which eye?", she continued somewhat relieved. "My right..." After the nurse finished the standard questioning & pre-surgical tests, she provided a bag for my personal belongings, as well as a highly-fashionable surgical ensemble. Stunning. Then, I was whisked into a changing room and quickly instructed on the proper way to put this outfit on. I poutily removed my clothing, still frustrated that I had to be there, and slipped into a thin, blue surgical gown held together with a couple of ties in the back, matching blue cap and non-skid tan socks. Why they don't just go ahead and make them blue to match is beyond me. *Really*.
I asked for extra blankets. YES, this is something I've learned after giving birth to 3 children. Those warm blankets after childbirth are *TDF* and, afterall, I deserved a little TLC considering the circumstances! Well, the next young nurse looks at me like I am kinda crazy but granted my wish. I could tell noone had EVER requested this before - EVER. Warm blankets were THE ONLY THING I looked forward to there and, by God, I was gonna get some extra ones! The other thing I also looked forward to was getting the day behind me and cuddling with my dogs in bed while I watched tv that evening. I truly could not wait until I was home with my family. I had spent several days "nesting" before the surgery, so the house was "picture perfect" for friends & family. The extra blankets started their work, providing soothing comfort I needed.
It felt like an instant had passed as I heard the nurse loudly calling my name out, "JULIE? JULIE? Your surgery is over." The initial pathology report did not come back 100% that it was basal cell carcinoma. While the surgeon removes tissue, it is immediately examined by a pathologist to ensure that the borders are cancer-free. I had expected to wake up with an eyelid reconstruction which would mean that my eye would have been grafted and sewn shut. When I came out of anesthesia, I could see light from under the bandages. I realized that it had not been sewn shut and for an all-too-short period of time thought perhaps the biopsy of tissue was benign and that I would not have to undergo the reconstruction. Two long weeks later, the biopsy report results confirmed the suspected diagnosis - basal cell carcinoma. I underwent the whole process again knowing that time it was really happening. Three quarters of my lower eyelid would be removed and reconstructed requiring a graft. The second time around was much easier from the standpoint of knowing the outcome and what the problem was. This time around wasn't to find out "Cause"; it was to "Cure".
It's amazing what modern plastic surgery can accomplish. As I type this, it's been one week to the day since the reconstruction and I'm so pleased with the results. If you are in the same boat as I have been, remember, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon & wonderful family & friends. For my F&Fs ... Thank you, guys.
I Love You All!