Let’s roll back to 2008. One day in the shower I found a BB shaped lump in my right breast.
My maternal grandmother died of breast cancer. My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer. My mother had lung cancer. My father had prostate cancer.
Why would I not have cancer?
I sniffed out stress in any situation and piled it on. My job in public accounting was high paying, high profile, high stress, high risk, and some sporadic personal reward. Zero support. Zero teamwork. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. Sink or swim.
I had just bought a house on my own, and my kids were in grade school.
I was the perfect candidate for cancer. Stress + unhealthy lifestyle + a belief that DNA determines everything = Cancer. Every factor in this equation was a plus.
I was referred to Oregon Breast Center. This lump was not an issue, but it got me to the right place. And to the right docs.
Over the next four years, Oregon Breast Center became a part of my life. Needle biopsies, lumpectomies, MRIs, mammograms, oncologists, tumor boards, ultrasounds, drugs, discussions, and more discussions. The radiologist had me on speed dial.
I can chill in an MRI. A little Michael Franti, some deep breathing…I can often fall asleep. I know the drill and the techs know me pretty well. I like closed MRI because I can sing every word of Bowie’s Space Oddity and there’s something pretty real about that when you are riding a slab face down into a metal tub with an IV in your arm. And then they close you into the room alone. Ground Control to Major Tom. Once again I am floating in my tin can. Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.
The Reading Room is the full head trip. The Mammogram Museum of ME! Screens all over like the Houston Place Center, only they are all me and they are peppered with arrows and white spots. Not really cancer, but not really not cancer, definitely not healthy. By 2012 the spots were connecting up and the abnormal invasive cells were on the move.
After all that scanning I was still shocked when the radiologist dropped the bomb. Double mastectomy.
My body already looked like Swiss cheese from the lumpectomies. Cosmetically going flat wasn’t a stretch. I wasn’t into implants. Putting a bag of saline into my body seemed counter intuitive to healing. More invasive than cells. Maybe a port for my Iphone to charge and a little space for my keys & wallet would be in order. How cool to have friend see that her phone is dying and lift my shirt and say “Here, plug it in right here! I’ll charge it right up!”
But this story is about Pumpkin Pie. Thanksgiving was 6 days after my mastectomy. I could not bake the pie myself. I had already given up some body parts and if I gave up pie that year I was closer to giving up everything.
Kids at their dad’s. I am out of it. I had to recruit my husband.
Let me introduce you to my husband, Jeff Gamer. I complain about him sometimes. He’s the kindest, most generous man on the earth. His head is kind of egg shaped, and he is a great sport about being photographed with and near things egg shaped. He’s a great stepdad to my kids. He loves me and he actually “gets” me. I could watch him rock climb all day and he’s a madman skier. And he can roll with anything.
Well, almost anything. Jeff’s baking skills leave a lot to be desired.
The first time he saw me bake a layer cake, he was in awe. “I never knew how they go the icing got there in the middle. That’s clever!” Not sure which part of that statement troubles me more “they” or “clever” because this means he has not ever witnessed or participated in the ritual of cake baking. But the bar is low if getting icing in the right place was considered clever, so we’ll put that on the plus side.
Jeff also has the mind of an engineer. Which means has to know every detail before starting a project. He needs a process. He needs a work plan. He needs an example of how the end user will use it.
1. This is a pie.
2. We actually had that work plan conversation while I was helping him get the ingredients.
I kept asking him, “You’ve eaten a pie, right? You’ve eaten this particular pie? You’ve seen pictures of pies? You understand the concept. You are going to make a pie!”
He just couldn’t wrap his head around the pile of ingredients and the inevitable result of a pie. Here was one of the brightest, boldest men I know and he was crippled by a can of Crisco and a bag of flour.
I see now that it wasn’t so much making the pie that was crippling him. My surgery was an indication to him that maybe I wasn’t superhuman after all…and maybe he wasn’t either. That someday we might not be together. This is a man so sweet that at 5:00 AM when we arrived at the hospital to check in and change my life with a mastectomy, he cranked up “Into the Mystic” on the car stereo and asked me for one last dance in the parking lot. We held each other and cried and laughed and then took those steps to the hospital together. That forever bond was in question. It wasn’t about the can opener, or the oven, or the pie pan. It was about the bond. I get that just now.
We baked that pie together. Jeff took a leap of faith believed that he could take some simple ingredients, add a little bit of belief, sprinkle on some magic and come out with a pie, and it happened. I took a leap of faith believed that someone could love me so much to take this journey with me, and it happened. We took that leap together, and we made a pie.
2012 is the year my amazing husband won The Show Pie. And my heart.