Tag Archive | coeliac disease

4 years on

Over these past few years I have attended appointments with radiology for mammograms and bone density scans, with my surgeon, and now his successor, and with the oncologist at their various places of business. I have religiously taken the medication I have been advised to have, despite some side effects I could really do without. And I take the medication that is supposed to reduce those side effects. It does, a little.

I have had all good reports from the medical people thus far despite a bit of worry about my bone density. Next month I have appointments with the bone scanning machine and the surgeon. But I have now reached a state of mind where, after a few hiccups along the way, I am finally reaching a point where life is really good again and I just want to live it and not be defined by being a breast cancer survivor. I must admit that that has been the way I have seen myself through these past 4 years since my radiotherapy ended. The reports next month and next year will be fine. I can get along with life, and almost pretend the cancer didn’t happen.

I was almost right back to square one when a routine colonoscopy in December 2014 showed a reasonably large tumour growing in my bowel. After consulting with another surgeon I was booked to have the tumour removed in March 2015. I turned up at the hospital at the appointed time and date. The next morning I was wheeled in to theatre at 8am. At 8.10am I was dead. But it’s great that I can be here now writing to you that I am still here. I was brought back to the living with the normal TV type drama of CPR by hand and with paddles, and put into an induced coma while they investigated the cause of my death. At first a heart attack was suspected but after a workover by Wellington’s premier heart surgeon my heart was found to be healthy. I had, instead, suffered a huge anaphylactic reaction to the anaesthetic.

When I was brought out of the coma I was amazed to learn that I wasn’t waking up after the expected operation, but many more hours later in the ICU having not been touched by a scalpel. Later the anaesthetist told me I was the first such case he had had in 35 years of practice. I’d made history at Wakefield Hospital apparently, a Medical Journal article in the making.

Recovering from that CPR was the most painful time of my life, apart maybe from childbirth. It hurt to breathe, to laugh, to cough, to wash myself in the shower, hanging clothes on the clothesline – a joke.

Eight weeks later I had allergy tests at Wellington Hospital which revealed which ingredient of the anaesthetic I had reacted to, and one other as well.

I was then cleared to have the surgery again. The tumour was actually growing on my appendix and had pierced my bowel to find more room to grow. The appendix and tumour were removed along with a small section of my bowel. A lucky escape as it happens as the tumour was pre-cancerous.

Since that episode I have had a number of much more minor incidents mainly resulting from falls where I have been taken to hospital for checkovers for more serious injuries but, fortunately, there were none. I have broken one small toe, three times in about four months last year. But that is all behind me now.

Since I moved to the Wairarapa I have have been cultivating a new hobby of card making. My hobby kept me sane during those long weeks of radiotherapy when I spent my time at Margaret Stewart House in Wellington. It still does. I become wonderfully lost in it and at the end have the sense of achievement having made something aesthetically pleasing. My art teacher at school told me I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body. I was a lost cause. I still can’t draw, but I can create a pleasing card or two.

So I am going to end this blog now, and start a new chapter in my life and try to make a bit of pocket money from my hobby. New Chapters in my blog life will be about life only on occasions, but mostly about my card making, Sylvia Stamps Up – Crafting is the best medicine.

Aftermath

iphone 006

Today is the two calendar month or 8.5 week anniversary of the end of my radiation treatments. And after that time the overwhelming feeling throughout has been one of ……well, abandonment, almost. For 6 weeks I was down at Margaret Stewart House undergoing daily treatments at the hospital, rushing home for the weekends and back to Wellington on the Mondays. The people I lived with there were either cancer patients themselves, going through what I was, or worse, in many cases, or their support people, generally their partners. Because we were all facing the same unpleasantness in one way or another, there was empathy with everyone you came across. The Radiology staff were sympathetic but not having undergone the treatment they were dishing out, it was more, business as usual mixed with a modicum of sympathy compared to those of us at the House.

And having left the House, all that support, was suddenly gone. I remember feeling, “Well, what now?” Am I cured? Nobody has taken tests; nobody has set me on the track for life as a cancer survivor, or life without cancer, It’s almost like bringing home a new baby, not quite feelings of helplessness, but certainly being overwhelmed. It was strange to have faced the cancer demon, kicked it’s butt, I hope, but look as if nothing out of the ordinary had gone on in my life for the past six months, and set about daily life again.

So the burns are all healed and that’s good. The fatigue that I was assured would be gone in three weeks has not quite departed. It’s a bit of a shock when ,as I did, this morning, having a 10.00am appointment and look at the clock on awakening and find that it’s 9.03am already. The up side is that I don’t need so many nana naps now. Unless I have been really busy I only crash every 6 or 7 days. I am so glad I have made the decision to cut my ties with the world of MaunderSurveying and am no longer responsible for writing up the resource consent applications for clients. I decided that it was one stress I just didn’t need any more. My Wellington desk has been cleared out and now I am free of those shackles I have a weight lifted from my shoulders.

All my free time was great as my family swung into birthday mode in the latter part of April/early May. I may not have posted everything off on time but at least everyone eventually received their personal handmade little finishing touch from Mum/Wife/Grandma.

Another reason I was grateful I never went back to work was the effects of the hormone therapy tablets on my system. I was forewarned that the drug, whichever genus I chose to go on would give me menopausal symptoms all over again. For anyone who has been there and done that, you certainly don’t want to go back and do it again. And you never want it to be ten times worse than it ever was originally either. When the oncologist was explaining the differences between Tamoxifen (normally given to pre-menopausal women) and an aromatase inhibitor drug (normally given to post-menopausal women) I actually chose to go 2 years on Tamoxifen and then 3 on the aromatase inhibitor, of which there are three on the New Zealand market. The Aromatase inhibitors have the additional side effect of increasing one’s propensity to develop osteoporosis, which is also a possible side effect of my coeliac disease. However, fearing that the worst might happen, while on the Tamoxifen I also took his email address and was I ever glad I had done that.

After a month on the Tamoxifen and having hot flushes that lasted a good 10-15 minutes each and made me so hot I was dripping with perspiration down my face, back and front – just as I had been while undergoing the radiation treatment. At night I would wake up several times so hot that I had had also done the job of an electric blanket at its highest setting on my bed. If I just got out of bed and cooled down a little, the bed was still so hot when I got back in that I couldn’t get back to sleep as the bed was too hot, and that was with the most minimal bedclothing ever. I had to stand in the open door and cool off in the evening breeze, if there was one for a good 10 minutes so that I didn’t get reheated all over again, well too soon, anyway. That happened 2 or 3 times some nights I thought that this was sure to calm down in a short time but it just kept on week after week. After 5 weeks I had had enough and emailed the oncologist, who emailed back that I should stop the Tamoxifen immediately and we would discuss the alternatives when he next saw me in Masterton on 8 May.

At that check up I reluctantly decided that I should try one of the aromatase inhibitors and to date there has only been one hot flush, one night sweat, and that has been it for the past week. Long may that situation continue, and I just hope my bones are strong enough already to withstand this onslaught for the next five years.

During the time I was off the Tamoxifen, when I was beginning to feel a bit better about myself, I finally decided to bare all to my husband again. I had had such a shock at his first reaction when he thought I had been mutilated, that I had never bared myself to him again since the surgery. But my mind was beginning to run along whether I should or should not undergo reconstruction surgery and I thought I should discuss that with him before making my final decision. He looked at me and said he didn’t think it was necessary as he would be the only man married to a woman with a smiley face on her boob.

So when I go to the surgeon for a check up with him tomorrow, that’s one subject I can cross off the list.

The picture above is my faithful companion Buffo hard at work in front of the fire during a recent cold snap and below are the lovely flowers I received from my daughter, Frith, for Mother’s Day

iphone 004

Everything that could go wrong…..

So today was supposed to be the first day of my radiotherapy treatment. Peter and I drove down to Wellington in time to keep the 10am consult with the Registrar and for me to sign the consent form for the treatment. The radiotherapy session was to start at 11.10am. Just as the radiographer, Claire, appeared to call me to the changing room the power went out. So she retreated and we were left in the waiting room again. A few minutes later the power was restored by courtesy of the hospital generators. Claire came back and explained that there would be a delay as the power outage meant that the machines had to warm up again for half an hour, and then they had to finish the treatment for the person who was in the machine at the time of the outage.

Time ticked on and then the power went out again. Claire had explained that when the power changed back from generator to mains there would be another outage, but this could be in 10 minutes or 5 hours. This second outage was about 25 minutes after the first outage so presumably the machine hadn’t even warmed up for the last person to finish treatment. Claire returned, apologised and asked us if we could go away for lunch and they would call me on my mobile with a time later in the afternoon.

Peter had planned that we would go to The Chocolate Fish Cafe in Shelly Bay. He needed to do some measurements for the Wellington Marathon course and the Chocolate Fish was conveniently right on the course. The menu was pleasantly surprising in that most items had a gluten free option. I ordered a Warm Spiced Chickpea Salad, with Grilled Fish. It tasted wonderful. Peter went off to do his measurements and while he was away the hospital called back with a 3.10pm time for my treatment.

There was plenty of time to return, check in to our new abode at Margaret Stewart House, Room 12 (in the grounds of Wellington Hospital). We had decided hat this was dragging too far into the day and that Peter would return to work, so I came upstairs to our room to work on my cards for a while.

My Coeliac Disease, the reason for the need for Gluten Free food, manifests itself, if my food is contaminated in any way, with an urgent, violent visit to the small room. If I do nothing about it from then on, urgent and violent also become extraordinarily frequent, debilitating to the point where I cannot be any further than about 30 seconds away from the small room. Fortunately I had some medication with me that should stave off the worst effects so that I could remain sociable. I took two of the rapid variety and then had to dash off to the hospital for my appointment.

When Claire fetched me, I explained my predicament, but we agreed to carry on with the treatment. Suitably attired in the fashionable gown I was taken to the treatment room. More grumbles. I retreated to the small room. False alarm – just gas. Back I went and was all measured up onto the treatment table. I was to have an X-ray first, then the treatment would begin. As I lay there I could feel the grumbles returning but decided to stick it out. I heard the click of the X-ray and waited for the treatment to start. But instead Claire came back. She and her assistant had decided that “I was too worried” and they couldn’t get a clear enough image on their X-ray for treatment to begin. Their preference was to do away with treatment for today and to add on another day at the end of the 6 week period.

So here I am in Margaret Stewart house ending my blog for today. Try again tomorrow!

Post-Op visit to Surgeon

Given the seriousness of the disease, “Cancer” and the enormous emotional upheaval with which a woman is faced when the word ‘Cancer’ is prefaced by the word ‘Breast’ everything seems to be over and done with so quickly at this stage anyway, but my mind still reels from it all.

Yesterday was the appointed day to visit the surgeon in Lower Hutt again and have the results of the pathology on the tissue removed from my breast – there, I’ve had to admit it and lose the word ‘boob’ – and from the Node Biopsy. After Peter and I had had breakfast I fiddled with the packet of things I had received from the Cancer Society which has now become intermingled with the material I received in the Cancer Pack from Boulcott Clinic. There is one booklet in there which I have not been able to face. Its called ‘After Breast Cancer Surgery – Looking Ahead’. I’ve had several attempts at reading it and the only part of it I can read without tears welling up as I try to read, is the part on Radiotherapy.

It’s an Australian Cancer Society publication I can’t fathom why I can’t face this booklet but even as I prepared to go to the post-op appointment I still couldn’t read it without great big tears rolling down my face and dripping onto my clothes. I had thought that the feeling of relief I felt after the surgery might have translated into a bit more self assuredness and a lot less of the tears and tissues. But no. I had to give up on it again and just go do something else to while away the time before we left to go to Lower Hutt. I had thought that I wasn’t even too worried or anxious about the visit but the tears and tissues might have indicated otherwise.

When we arrived at the Boulcott Clinic we were ushered into to see Carl Dowle after a short wait. Straight down to business, he told us that the tissue removed from my breast had about 2mm of clear tissue all around it and that the node biopsy had shown no evidence of Cancer cells. Hooray for something. It should have been a great relief, but it wasn’t, because in that message he also told us that he had, unknowingly, removed three tumours!! The biggest one, the frozen pea that grew into a chick pea, the one I knew about, was 18mm in diameter. But there were two others, one of 11mm and one of 2mm. I can easily see how one would miss removing something only 2mm in size and I can understand that it would have been easy to miss seeing it on one of the numerous mammograms I had had prior to the surgery. But what absolutely amazes me and frightens me is the fact that the mammogram machine and the surgeon both managed to miss the fact that there was another malignant tumour 11mm wide growing in there, when there had been all that kerfuffle about the two areas of calcification which turned out to be benign.

So while all that is running round in my brain the surgeon has moved on to the statistical probabilities of my likely survival with a 6 week course of radiotherapy and whether that should be followed up by Hormone therapy, and if so, which one. The favourable results in the pathology report rule out any necessity to consider chemotherapy as a treatment. I had expected that to be the case once I heard the results of the report but the relief I thought I might feel never eventuated. Those other two tumours are really bugging me.

Apparently I shouldn’t be worried. It’s gone now. Is there another rogue frozen pea growing somewhere else in my breast?

Cancer brain, all the logical and illogical thoughts that race unbidden into one’s consciousness. But am I being illogical? I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to find out in the 5 years of checks which will follow my completed treatment.

For the statistical analysis he used something called Adjuvant Online, a website to help health professionals and patients with early cancer discuss the risks and benefits of getting additional therapy (adjuvant therapy: usually chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or both) after surgery. (I’m learning so many new words throughout all of this. Adjuvant wasn’t ever something my limited vocabulary had come across before.) He entered data into the site on the size of the tumour, but only the biggest one because it’s most unusual, unheard of, not recorded for anyone to have three tumours, the grade and it was a Grade 2 tumour, and various other statistics from the pathology report that elude me now. The website throws back at him that I have a 78% chance of still being here in 10 years time. But of that other 22%, 14% will die from something else, other than Cancer. 7% will have a recurrence of Breast Cancer. My chances of sticking around a bit longer are enhanced by a measly 2% if I undertake 5 years of hormone therapy to repress the production of oestrogen which fuels the growth of the cancer cells, even though the radiotherapy is supposed to kill off anything and everything around the site of your recently removed cancer/s to prevent just that very thing. Yet 7% of women have a recurrence.

He discussed the options of Tamoxifen versus Aromatase inhibitors – more new words. Both of them have some pretty nasty side effects. If I choose to have the hormone therapy and he seemed to be angling towards the aromatase inhibitor treatment, mostly on the basis that the side effects were not quite as severe, but one of the effects is to weaken your bones and become more susceptible to Osteoporosis. Oh my goodness, that’s also something which can be a side effect of Coeliac Disease. I have already had one bone density scan, about 1 year after my Coeliac diagnosis. While I was in the next room having the dressings removed from my wounds by Robyn, Carl was picking up the results of that bone density scan from 4 years ago on his computer. I am stunned that all my records seem to be so readily available. But that was fleeting compared to everything else going on.

I had thought that removing the dressings would reveal the true shape of the new me, but all it really revealed was more sticky tape beneath. The only sutures I have are soluble internal ones. The two wounds on my breast are all held together with steri-strips, one long one on each wound with several more at right angles along the length. The wound where the excision took place is about 10cm long and begins to show that my shape will never be the same without re-constructive surgery, and over the node biopsy the wound is about 8cm long. Not a pretty sight, even covered up with steri-strips. Everything is still swollen and there is a lot of bruising too, but most of the swelling appears to be where the biopsy took place, strangely enough.

So back to the Bone Density Scan. Four years ago it was pretty good for a person of my age, but I have an appointment for another one in two weeks time. A copy will also be sent to the radiologist to consider in planning my radiotherapy. When the appointment with the radiologist will be is a bit in the lap of the Gods as the Christmas Holiday period intervenes in the normal sequence that it should be conducted. Carl, or someone, will also consider it, I guess, when the decision is made about the hormone therapy.

So armed with more information and another load of inner turmoil, well, on my part anyway, we left Lower Hutt and off we went to Wellington where I was to have the second fitting for my Mother of the Bride dress. It looks as if it will be lovely. Zowie had a mock up of the dress for me to try on and for her to tweak where necessary. As I looked at myself in the mirror, all I could think of was whether or not anyone would notice that some of my top half was missing. Its fairly detailed with ruching on the bodice and is a princess line style, so probably will hide the worst, but then when she came to the tweaking it needed pulling in under the bust. She’s about to emphasise what is now my least desirable feature I was thinking. Despite the lovely colour and lovely fabric I feel diffident about wearing it before it’s even made.

The Wellington skies had leaky eye syndrome when I emerged from the fitting. Peter had been off at Animates buying more supplies for the feline inhabitants of our home. Fortunately there was a shop verandah to wait under, but I didn’t have long to wait.

From there we went to the Office Christmas lunch at a pub near the office in Karori, which, last time I had seen it was called The Quiet Lady. Now it’s the Pickle Jar. And was I in a pickle. For the first time I had to confront my workmates with bits missing. Of course, nobody was crass enough to comment. Maybe they didn’t even notice. But I felt as if I had gone to lunch with a bunch of strangers. I don’t feel I am the same person any more, physically or mentally.

Diagnosis part 2

On November 8th, it was another trip to Lower Hutt.  This time Peter came with me so that we could both hear the results of those awful biopsies from the week before. Talk about good news and bad news, well there was bad, good news and bad news.  The bad news was that the frozen pea was definitely cancerous, Invasive Ductal Cancer of the Breast, apparently the most common and the easiest to treat, if caught early, as are they all.  The good news was that the area of calcification they had taken biopsies from had all turned out to be non-cancerous.  However, that in itself, while a relief, was immediately tarnished by the fact that having established that, they wanted, now, to make sure that the other area of calcification was also not cancerous, or otherwise.

With the official notification that I had cancer, Robyn, Carl’s Specialist Breast Nurse, who sits in on all the consultations, handed me a ‘Cancer pack’.  On top of Carl’s detailed explanations of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment there was a whole heap of paper to read as well, just to make sure that we were fully informed, in case one or other of us had glazed over during all the verbal explanations. One part that I didn’t glaze over for was the fact that now there was a non-cancerous part to the equation with one part still unknown the treatment could change from a straight out Mastectomy to a chance that there could be a Lumpectomy, or in their terms a Wide Local Excision, accompanied by a Sentinel Node Biopsy and followed up next year by 6 weeks of radio-therapy.  And the bad news on that possibility was that, because the frozen pea was right on the edge of my aureola, I would have to lose the nipple.

To me that is almost as bad as losing the whole breast.  That’s still quite a disfigurement that will be with me for the rest of whatever life I have left after all this.  When Carl talked about the Mastectomy he talked in terms of an immediate re-construction being available if I wanted it, because of the unlikelihood of the cancer having spread into the lymph nodes.  But with the lumpectomy and losing the nipple with it there is no talk of reconstruction, even though the disfigurement is almost as great I would have thought.  In fact, I do think.  OK, there will still be something to put in a bra, but it will be smaller and misshapen.  In the cancer pack I read, somewhere, that the NZ government provides subsidies for prostheses in cases such as I imagine mine would be. That’s not what I want to define the rest of my life either.

Something I shall have to enquire more about on the next visit.

But meanwhile, back to November 8th. An appointment was made for me to go down to Lower Hutt again, the next day (9th) to have the extra biopsy on the ‘hard to find’ area of calcification.  And, oh dear, was it hard to find.  That day, I think I must have had the most photographed boob in the country.  It was one of those nasty ones where I had to firstly stand up for a lengthy series of mammograms till they found a picture they thought they could work with.  I think there must have been nearly 15 mammograms trying to get that far.  Having obtained the right sort of picture, I was then put on the gurney again, on my side, with boob clamped into the mammogram machine while what seemed like another 15 mammograms were taken while they positioned me exactly, so that the Dr could reach the area of concern with all his needles to take the required samples.  I ended up with my hips downward on the gurney, my arms over my head, and my whole top half almost completely off the gurney with my head between my arms, all but eating the mammogram plates and with one of the radiologists having to support my top half so that I didn’t fall off.  And though all this I had to remain so still, so that they could do their positioning and eventually stick all the needles in.

I might add that all of this was taking place on a boob that was already showing a bright rainbow of colouring from the bruising of the previous week.  plus there were two incision marks healing.  (The biopsy needles were wide enough that they had to make small incisions to get them into my boob.)  The incision from this biopsy was under my armpit and in the ensuing days both it and the new lot of bruising made for quite an uncomfortable time. The bra-less 60s beckoned, but I didn’t back then and nor did I that week.

I had had the foresight to bring a little lunch with me this time and ate in the car park before driving home over the hill again.

So then began another nightmare week of waiting, waiting, waiting, sleep deprivation and so on.  On one of my periods of sleeplessness, in fact, it was November 15th, the day I was due to go back to Lower Hutt for the results of that horrible biopsy, I heard my Ipad ping with a Facebook notification. Not being otherwise occupied, I answered the message back and surprised one of my lovely friends in the USA who thought that all good people in NZ should have been asleep at that hour, 4am.  But I had already been awake since 2.15 so I had no compunctions about picking up the Ipad and writing back, and so began a ‘chat’ that lasted over an hour.  I was so grateful for the company, and the sympathy at that desperate hour of the day, and all this while she was supposed to be working.  You have to love friends who love you like that.  And for her it was a bit of double whammy because her sister in Christchurch had had a Lumpectomy (and the Sentinel Node Biopsy) for an Aggressive Lobular Cancer only a week before.  In a way, I almost felt guilty, unburdening myself on her as I knew full well what her sister’s situation was, but I had no sister but her to ‘listen’.

So the day of my next appointment (November 15th) had dawned, rather early for me, and again we piled into the car and drove over the hill for the news that the second (‘hard to find’) area was benign.  I almost felt that it should have been cancerous or at least pre-cancerous, just because of the ordeal I had been though to get any sort of result at all.  But that result certainly simplified the treatment options.  Although I could still have the Mastectomy if I wanted to, the lumpectomy followed by the radio-therapy sounded like the least invasive option, surgically anyway.  So I have been booked into Boulcott Hospital in Lower Hutt for the surgery on November 28th.  I have to be there at 7am and nil by mouth since midnight on 27th.  That means I shall have to leave home, at the latest, by 5.45am. Ye gods and little fishes.  Another time when good New Zealanders should still be in their beds.

The emotional rollercoaster

Those two words, breast cancer, for a woman mean immediate start button on an emotional rollercoaster.  I don’t know when the ride ends.  I’m still on it.  The highs, the lows, times you feel strong enough to tackle the world and others when you wish it would swallow you up.

That ride home to Carterton on November 1st was dreadful.  The first problem, much more easily fixed, was that it was after 3pm and I hadn’t had anything other than a cup of tea at the radiology clinic since breakfast much earlier in the morning.  For a Coeliac takeaways and eating lunch from a cabinet in a cafe are fraught with difficulties.  Most cafes seem to think that all we ever want to eat is the orange almond cake, which is nice, but not lunch. The Indian Cafe in Lower Hutt where we liked to eat on occasion had closed for lunch at 2pm.  Finally we drove past a Burger Fuel.  They do GF hamburgers, yummy ones too albeit a little large for a 3.30pm lunch. So armed with the burger and a bottle of coca cola (when did I last have one of those?), we drove home.

Its so silly how something as petty as not having lunch and being unable to easily find anything to eat can assume such  monstrous proportions in one’s mind. Truth be told I was past it then.  I couldn’t have cared about lunch, but my tummy was rumbling and eventually it blotted out all else.

Having consumed the burger and coca cola with only minimal drippings down my front, I found I couldn’t open my mouth to speak without the tears coming on, so we drove in silence for most of the way.

I have no idea, then or now, what was running through Peter’s mind.  We just drove.

We had to go via the supermarket as I had nothing unfrozen that I could cook for dinner.  I can’t even remember now what I bought, or what I cooked but I cooked something for dinner.  Did I?  Maybe Peter cooked it.  We ate and watched TV. For the most part I still couldn’t speak without tears welling up, but there were three grown children living in different parts of the world who really deserved to know as well.  So I faced the computer screen and wrote a group email to them, and later copied it to the brothers and sisters in law and a few friends I knew would care.  Typing the words was much easier than giving voice to them. Much to my surprise Simon (the only son and the only one who lives in NZ) rang shortly after I had sent the email, and surprising enough I was able to speak without the tears.  I was grateful for that, and for his call.

So then began the waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting,  one of the worst parts of the rollercoaster, at this stage, waiting. Waiting for those results on 8 November. Almost every night I would wake at some time in the wee small hours and find myself unable to get back to sleep.  My mind raced away with me on journeys I didn’t want to travel but they kept intruding into my consciousness anyway, scenarios that I had been assured were most unlikely in my case, all the what ifs, just the thought of breast cancer and the potential disfigurement, all causes of massive sleep deprivation throughout the week. And come November 8th I was an emotional wreck.  I still am.