Listen you guys, it’s been a challenging few weeks behind the scenes of my glorious life. Everything’s fine, don’t worry. But for six weeks I’ve been scanned, biopsied, probed, propofol-ed 2X, hospitalized for a few hours for a surgical procedure which was accompanied by a long uneasy recovery, put on new medications, and seen by new doctors. It’s been a bit of a medical uproar. It was like a scavenger hunt trying to find out what was going on (hence all the testing). The “prize” at the end of the hunt was learning that I had a very rare disease caused by past treatment for breast cancer.
My oncologist said, “Let’s get a second opinion. I’d love to have someone else’s eyes on your case.”
She gave me the names of three key players and my nursing friend, Joan, researched all of them and concluded, “You’re going to UCSF and seeing Mark.” I was happy with that. Of all three people my doctor had talked about in her office, his name was the one I had starred.
Joan would drive me and be an extra set of eyes and ears. All I had to do was figure out what to wear to the second opinion appointment.
What I wore to my second opinion appointment
I take these kind of appointments very seriously. I had a few goals for my outfit.
- Given I had never met this doctor before I wanted him to get a sense of who I am. I wanted him to see a healthy, vibrant, resilient person. Bright, aware, and planning to be here a long, long time.
- I wanted to dress in a way that showed I respected him, his time, and his broad knowledge.
- I wanted to put together an outfit that brought comfort to me. It could be interesting but not at all busy or visually loud.
- I wanted to wear personal symbols, symbols that ground me.
- I wanted to be comfortable, to wear something that didn’t make me have to think about my clothes. I wanted my full attention on Dr. Mark and what he had to say.
The pants: I knew I wasn’t going to go casual and wear jeans even though I’m sure he has plenty of patients who do. I wore my Lafayette 148 black ankle pants that are super comfortable and easy to not pay attention to; all the better to pay attention to the doctor.
The shirt: I decided a white blouse would be respectful. No T-shirts for me. I wore this white blouse by Hugo Boss. I love the way it feels and I enjoy the detailing on the front.
The jacket: I debated about wearing a black jacket with my white shirt and black pants but in the end, I wanted my jacket to comfort me. Nothing makes me feel more secure and cocooned than this Dries Van Noten jacket that I picked up at a consignment store in Santa Fe this summer. The print makes me think of plants and water and the blue sky. I feel comforted always by Nature. Wearing this jacket was like wearing serenity.
How I accessorized my second opinion outfit
We’ve talked about wearing symbols and of course, I had to bring out my bees.
In the 23rd Psalm it says, “Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” I can’t quite get the symbolism of the rod and the staff but I do get the symbolism of bees. They comfort me! I talked about wearing symbols in a recent blog (catch it here). Bees symbolize the idea that anything is possible [like great health]; they symbolize feminine power [having the power to face whatever I have to face]; they symbolize community, brightness, and personal power [my great health care community that includes doctors, nurses, family and friends and the brightness of a great future!].
Shoes: I wanted to feel grounded and sturdy so I wore my laced Rosa Mosa oxfords.
Here’s how the outfit performed: When Joan and I got to the check-in reception area on the second floor of UCSF at 1600 Divisidero, right off the bat the woman behind the desk at the computer said, “Oh, I love your jacket. What’s your name?” “Brenda Kinsel,” I said. “K-I-N-S-E-L.”
“Oh, I love your necklace! What is that?” she said after she found my name in the computer.
“Well, I’m hoping it’s a bee because I love bees. Do you think it’s a bee? I hope it’s not a fly or a moth.”
Then her workmate got involved. He said, “Oh, moths are beautiful!” I said, “Not the dusty looking ones that flew around in my bedroom growing up on the farm.”
“Oh, no, they can be very beautiful.” And then he goes on about moths he’s seen. Next, he’s pulling up an image of a moth on his computer to show me how beautiful they are.
“Wow, that looks like a shawl, not a moth,” I said about the giant moth with the incredible pattern on its wings.
In my mind I’m thinking, Way to go, outfit. You’re instigating conversations. You’re breaking the ice and making me not feel nervous!
Joan and I were having a blast with these two people and we hadn’t even gotten in to see the doctor yet!
Then I was called into this hallway to meet someone else. He was taking care of the weighing and measuring and blood pressuring and listing of medications. Maybe you had to have been there but gosh, he seemed as familiar with medical terms as I am with car mechanics. When he took us to the doctor’s office and told us the doctor would be there soon, Joan looked at me and said, “Where did he come from?” We got the giggles. I mean the snot-coming-out-of-the-nose kind of giggles.
The doctor’s report
Then the doctor came in and asked me to sit next to him. It was an enlightening forty-minute chat. Joan and I passed on his report just minutes later when we joined my daughter Caitlin at b. patisserie right after the appointment (the grown up equivalent to a lollypop).
As we told Caitlin Dr. Mark downgraded my condition from “very rare disease” to “fairly common” disease. I learned that my fairly common disease will not likely progress (fingers crossed). In fact, it could even get better. It won’t be cured but the goal is to continue to treat the symptoms. I’d been dragging my feet about another endoscopy (Do I have to????) but now I am totally on board.
He’s an expert on the type of breast cancer I have. I had a recurrence several years ago but I’ve been stable for a long time. If it were to flair up again, he told me about the new things that are happening in the field. I’m not in need of any of those right now but it was great to hear about cutting edge treatment options. Maybe I really can be here for a long, long, long time.
Now I’m in the process of exhaling from all the health drama and recalibrating my future plans. My friend Joan texted me and said, “I wanted to write to you a million times yesterday…I feel such joy, happiness, and relief. Can’t explain really… I kept replaying that hour and I smiled and giggled. Those interactions were priceless.”
I’ve replayed it over and over myself. I find myself settling down and settling into my body, the same body that had me baffled and scared for weeks. Like I told Caitlin, I feel like this is the first day of the rest of my life.
Will you all do me a favor? Will you exhale with me? I love this community that’s formed on the blog. You’re all so kind. I feel buoyed by your presence in my life.
Life is good. Life is sweet. Let’s all carry on.