Welcome! Read Me!

This blog is created to give you a central location to answer any questions you have about my current and upcoming treatments and reactions. It is also created to help me make Lemonade out of the Lemons I have been given, so I will keep this as positive as I can.

Friday, December 30, 2011

And The Beat Goes On...

I have been meaning to get an update out here for a while now, but I have not wanted to put something out here just to have what I say completely change... And that has happened a lot lately... I have mentioned a few times my issues with Stitches. Well, since my surgery in mid July I have had 20+ sets of stitches. And if you do the math... there have only been approximately 24 weeks since then... so... I can honestly say that it is a lot of stitches. It is crazy since it will look perfect and have no issue one day and the next it is a gaping hole. All I can say is radiated skin and skin that has been attacked through Chemo does not react the way that it would have before all of these wonderful experiences. Well, earlier this year My doc (Dr R) realised that my skin was simply not cooperating well enough to handle much more so I went in for a small surgery to remove a small portion of the transferred fat to allow me to not have so much tension on the skin and the stitches. After this procedure I went a full week without needing stitches! It was awesome! Then about 3 days into the next week the stitches burst again... So I was back to my weekly stitch up. Dr R said that we will end up with another surgery more than likely, but I wanted to hold out for as long as possible so that I might have some PTO available from work. Since I have just started this job it is a really slow process, and I can't afford to take the day off unpaid if there is any way to avoid it... So I opted to just continue with the stitches to hold me over until we could go in for something more serious... Well, my skin decided to make my decisions for me once again and about a week before my birthday it decided that it didn't like being stitched at all! I ended up with 2 "massive" holes (the smallest was about the size of a Nickel, and the largest was about a quarter size) and so when I went in for my weekly stitch up Dr R told me what I expected to hear. We needed to do something more major, a lot sooner than I wanted. In fact, his suggestion was the very next day. I knew it needed to happen so I made it work, but I can't say I was Excited about it. This wasn't quite as major of a Surgery as the one I had just previously had so I was able to have it completed in his office instead of in the Hospital or Surgical Center. I even drove myself to and from the procedure. I will tell you right now I have gotten "used to" the whole stitches regimen, but there is something SOOOO Not Right about being Absoluetly and Completely AWAKE while having surgery. This is not for the Squeamish for sure. And I have NEVER considered me tough in that way (for example, I completely Froze when my nephew broke his arm while babysitting him and it didn't even break skin...) But I guess after making weekly stitch visits I have gotten a little desensitised to the whole thing. I actually had to try not to laugh during the process though because Dr R kept cracking jokes, and when there would be a strange noise he would apologise that I had to hear that and the best was when he said, "Um, Doctor, my body has never made THAT sound before!" hence giving my exact thoughts a voice... It is not good to get a fit of laughter going while you have someone with sharp instruments near your chest... so I held it in. Once he got done He gave me a wonderful Drain friend again. Ugh.... This is definitely NOT what I would say is my favorite part of surgery, but I can say that this time it is in a location that is not nearly as irritating... Last time it was IN my arm pits, and this time it is coming out the bottom of my breast. (I know it is a wonderful visual... Sorry!) But this is actually a wonderful thing since I do not have to avoid sleeping on my side! And Side sleeping is really the only way I can possibly get any real sleep. And the drain actually releases even more tension on the stitches to allow them to heal even betterby removing any exces fluid. After surgery I rested for a little while, then I went to work that night. It was Awesome! (yes I am being sarcastic) But at least I got the next day off, so I could rest more and take my lortab. :) I was hoping that I would be able to get my drain removed before Christmas, but... alas... when I went in for my follow up I was still getting just enough drainage that he wanted to leave it in until the next appointment... which unfortunately, because of Christmas and New Years, isn't until the first week of January. So I have the wonderful fortune of trying to look normal with a drain strapped to me for 3 weeks. There are a few people at work who actually know that I had surgery, but most have not heard my whole story, so they probably just think I have some crazy growth coming off of my side. But I was able to get the OK to wear pretty much whatever I feel like so that I can be comfortable and make it a little easier with the concealing when I am wearing a baggy T shirt and big ol' flannel shirt over it. Anyhow... None of the new stitches that I got then have burst so far, so this is officially the LONGEST I have gone without stitches since July... And so far the stitches are holding strong while I am waiting for my appointment. And next week I will hopefully get this drain removed and I can pretend to be normal for a while until the next surgery comes in to play.
Also next week I will be going in to see a Lymphedema Specialist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I have been trying to convince myself that the issues, that I believe are lymphedema related, would just go away, but they haven't so I have broken down and I will just go and get it checked out finally... I will try to update after all of that, since I expect next week to be a good week of a lot of info.
For now I will say Good Night... (or good morning as the case may be) and head off to bed.

***Sorry this is so long and "informational" I will try to get more "Lemonade" in it next time. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Embracing the curls???

Well as my hair continues to grow back in the Curl is getting more and more uncontrolled. I have been fighting against the curl daily, and it has been an extreme annoyance. With this annoyance I had to change my mind around and decide what was important to stress about and what just doesn't matter. So with that I have decided that for the most part I will be embracing the curl instead of fighting against it. I am trying to figure out how to fix it. Bangs??? No bangs??? Headband??? No extras??? I dunno. So if you see me and my hair looks like I just rolled out of bed... I probably have tried for a while to make it look right and just decided it wasn't worth it.
There are days that I want to go back to being bald. It was so carefree and I had little to no maintenance. Put a little lotion on the scalp and I was set for the day. I am so jealous of Alex on a daily basis. He shaved his head when I lost mine during Chemo and he has kept it shaved short since then, so he has a trim once per week as his only maintenance and I now have to work on it a lot harder.
On the bright side, I was looking at the family pictures that we had taken just before I started Chemo and I am maybe an inch or less away from having my hair back to the length it was back then. So I can almost say that it is back to normal. Back then I could get it pretty straight without too much effort, but it was pretty thin. I have been taking a lot of extra vitamins to help get my hair back, and some days I wonder if I am making it harder for myself while doing it, but then I think about it and I realise that I am ready to get past this length of hair, so I will push it to make it through the too short but too long phase soon enough and I will have more options to play with.

A quick update the surgery front: I had my most recent surgery a month ago, and it is healing up much quicker. I still have my setbacks, but the left side is almost completely healed. I can't tell you how happy I am to be getting to the light at the end of the tunnel. I won't be completely done until into the new year, but at least that will give me a break for the holidays. That IS a great gift!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dual Milestones

Milestone #1:
Well here it is... It has been ONE year since I first started Chemo. It is hard to take myself back to that day... That may be because of the Chemo anyways. Chemo Brain Strikes Again! HA HA!
On that day I was able to prove to myself that I can get through Chemo. So really I can get through anything...
My hair is nearly back to the length that it was before Chemo, and I am getting closer to normal. I started on a new medicine for my Hot Flashes and it seems to be doing the trick! Yeah!! I am down to just 2-3 per day instead of the 8-10 that I was having. So I am VERY happy about that development!
Milestone #2:
3 months ago today I went in for my DIEP reconstruction surgery. It was a wonderful day! I was able to get rid of the uncomfortable expander's and I was able to have the Fat transferred from my Stomach into my breasts. (What woman hasn't dreamed about this procedure??) Since that day I have had to go in to my Doctors office weekly to get restitched. Well today we decided that the stitches are not going to work anymore. So, the new plan is that the doc is going to go in and "clean up" the fat and take out anything that is not perfect. This could be a little bit, or it could be a lot, he won't know for sure until he gets in there. In doing this he will be able to release the tension that is placed on my skin so that hopefully the stitches will stop pulling out every couple days. Unfortunately with the Radiation that I had my skin is no longer so elastic so each time that I needed to be restitched I increased the tension. This surgery sounds like it will be a perfect solution to this problem and get me to heal sooner than later. When my Doc told me that he wanted to have this surgery he gave me the option of waiting 2 weeks or just getting it over with tomorrow. I opted for the soonest possible simply because I am ready to move on the the next phase. Logistically this is not really the best time, but... I will make it work however I can.
While I am eager to have this done, I am never excited to have a Surgery. And I am just glad that I can do it. At least it is Outpatient and I may be fine in the afternoon. :) I am hoping that I am going to fly through this quickly and easily.

I appreciate everyone's thoughts and Prayers. I guess I will try to get some sleep before I go in first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One year??? Really??? One Year???? Last year after waiting nearly 4 days (since Thursday the 30th) for the results of my biopsy My OB/GYN, Dr Smith, said those magical words that changed my world forever. "It is Cancer." It is hard thing to hear those words, and was even harder when I could tell that he was basically choking as he said them. I have had a lot of Doctors interactions in the past year, but this is definitely one of the more memorable of them and it was the point in my life that I needed to come to grips with the fact that I am mortal. I am still working on accepting my mortality and I am not quite there, but this was my first step. I have said this to some people before, but I remember many times in my life hearing about other people getting diagnosed with Cancer of any kind and immediately I told myself every time, "I don't believe I could deal with that." Or "There is no way I could handle that if it happened to me." And in that moment I was forced to "deal with" it and find a way to "handle" it. This is no easy task, but with many Prayers and Blessings I was able to find a strength that I was certain that I didn't have before in order for me to get up and face each new day. Is it easy? Heck No!! Is it worth it??? Absolutely!!! Every day I look at my wonderful kiddos and see how much they need a mommy around for them and I know that I will go one more day and do one more thing.

And now, One Year later, I have had the "opportunity" to change jobs. And I now have a new schedule coming up that will allow me to be home with the kids all morning so that I can be most involved with Katelynn's new school schedule. I am getting some of my energy back and I am hoping that I will be OK'd to get into a more involved exercise program so I can take advantage of the gym facilities at my new job. I am hopeful that the addition of even more activity will give me even more energy to do even more with my family. This is my new focus for the next year is to get and keep myself healthy and involved with my family.

One Year Down... Soooo Many To Go! I am ready to get on with the rest of my life! Today is a New Day! And it feels Wonderful!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fight Like a Girl!

Taking a quick break from the "One Year Ago Today" posts to talk about just today. Just cuz I like to live in the moment like that. HAHA! 
Today is October 1st, and the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was last year that I struggled with "Pink People" and embracing the fact that I had "Joined a Club" that I would have never in a million years signed up for on my own. Instead I was forced into it. Now; One year later, I have made some great friends. (some of whom I have only met face to face a couple of times, Some I have never met, but still have an everlasting connection to them) They are my Sisters in the Fight. They have been through what I have been through and it is a Wonderful thing to have such a support system when I have a question, and I love to be at a stage in my fight that I am able to answer questions for others who are just getting started in their journey. Today I met with a Great group of ladies at the Susan G Komen Survivor Luncheon. We were able to celebrate the successes from the Race For The Cure, as well as celebrate our ability to Fight Like A Girl!
When I was starting my Chemo, I was on Chemo #2 I believe, I sat in the room with this quiet little 16 year old girl. I was struck with the way that she carried herself. And now just under a year later she was speaking at a Survivor Luncheon! That is incredible. The Breast Cancer Community is so strong! It is a group that will not only keep you standing, but Lift you up to be Higher than you ever dreamed you could be. There is a Power in the numbers and these wonderful women who have paved the way before me help me to know that not only Can I do this, but I WILL do this.  This silly Cancer thing will not beat me. I was able to renew my fervor in the fight and get out of my funk a little.

Little did I know...This was not the end of the Pink Celebrations for the day. My Husband along with some of my dear Family and Friends put together a Surprise Party to help Celebrate my 1 Year Mark! My sister came and got me for dinner, (I had my first Mexican Pizza. Good stuff By the way) then we stopped at a couple stores, then headed home. I really had no idea that my Hubby was behind that. Or that she was being sneaky about anything. I was actually feeling all guilty about leaving Alex home again since I had already left him with the girls for a couple hours for the Luncheon. But I went ahead. When we came home I opened the door and the house was DARK. And all of a sudden the lights came on and the house shouted "Surprise!" And wow... Surprise is an understatement! When I left, the house was Quiet and calm and I was planning on it being the same once I got home...(besides a few crazy kids, of course) Boy was I wrong! Balloons, Buttons, Banners... Oh My! And Friends, Family and Food Filled my house! Wonderful! We spent the time Talking and Laughing... and yes of course there was some Crying. I guess It is only fitting that I would end up with Breast Cancer of all things since I am officially the Biggest "Boob" around. I get inspired, and I cry. I hear happy news, I Cry. I hear a Powerful song... Yup... I Cry! This is one reason I do not wear make-up often... I would just be reapplying it hourly... It isn't worth it. :) I guess it is all good when I am among friends right? But it was a Great time!

I know now that I can make it one more year... and one more after that, and one more after that... and on and on. Because Girls Fight to WIN, and I am definitely a Fighter, not a Quitter!

Go! Fight! Win!

Friday, September 30, 2011

One Year Ago Today Part 3

Well it was this time last year that I was filled with more uncertainty than ever. One year ago today was a Thursday, I had an appointment that I was going to in order to "rule out" anything too serious... so we could schedule the removal of the the lump and get on with it... Well... instead I was taken through a Whirlwind of Tests. I was planning on this taking 30-45 minutes, stopping in on my way home from work and getting home in time to set up my Dove Chocolate party for that evening at my house. So after my Ultrasound and Mammogram, when they wanted to take me back for an immediate Biopsy, my positiveness was shaken. It didn't help that after the Mammogram they had me go into a "consult room" instead of just going out to the waiting room, and then I had to wait FOREVER for them to even tell me what was up and that there was something concerning them. Through the biopsy I think the Dr and Nurse was trying to keep the thoughts lighthearted, and it worked to a point, but it just didn't seem to fit in with the procedure to have them talking about their Weekend plans and I am laying there wondering what the results were going to turn out to be, as well as why they can't come up with a less annoying way to take the biopsy without needing to to slam a spring loaded needle into it... I guess it was better than going in for immediate surgery... but still!
I got home and lost myself in Chocolate. It was great that I didn't have to spend the night thinking about the maybe's and the What-if's although the biopsy made me pretty sore, I didn't really have the chance to dwell on it. The waiting begins....

Fast Forward...

Today I am a bit out of sorts, but overall there was nothing "wrong" with the day so I have nothing to complain or worry about. I am looking forward to moving on to the next phase. and I feel a sense of urgency to get there. I know it will happen sooner or later, but Patience has never really been one of my strong points. I will try to contain myself and wait for the next step. I am so happy to have wonderful Family and Friends to keep me positive! I love you all!

When Life gets Tough... Feed it Chocolate... Works for me! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One year ago today: Part 2

One year ago today I checked in at my OB/GYN to have my lump checked out. For some people this may not be that big of a deal, but for me, I rarely, if ever, went into my doctor for anything besides my Once Yearly visits and the scheduled visits while Pregnant. SO actually getting myself into the Doctor was a real deal. Between the time that I set my appointment and the time that I went in I had pretty much convinced myself even more that they were just going to laugh me out of the office for being silly and stressing out over nothing. I met with the NP and she told me not to show or tell her where I had found the lump so that she could try to find it on her own. (So that she wouldn't miss something that I didn't feel if she felt it) Well... She picked up on it almost immediately. It was large enough, that I could not only feel it, but could also see it by then, but I had been checking it for quite a while so I was pretty familiar with it. She couldn't see it well at first, but had no problems finding it. The visit was fairly quick and I was sent away with orders to get in for a Mammogram and Ultrasound, and I was also given the contact information of a surgeon. This was so that if it was a cyst then I could have it quickly removed. I convinced myself that this is exactly what would be happening and I was annoyed with needing to go through the "red tape" of getting there... but knew that I needed to go through the motions.

Fast forward...

Today I met with my Plastic Surgeon and once again it was time for more stitches. Today was an Eight stitch day. But it made me feel better that he removed all but one of the prior stitches and hooked me up with a fresh new set. The Radiation is really effecting my skin's ability to heal. My non-radiated side is nearly healed up and I am hopeful that I will soon be clear of any issues there. But the right side has a couple stubborn holes that are refusing to heal up. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, September 26, 2011

One Year Ago Today...

This will be the beginning of a series of posts as I am coming to my One Year Anniversaries.

One year ago today I finally made the decision (with a little nudge from my Hubby) to admit that I needed to go to the doctor because of a lump that I had found in my Right breast. I had found it in August, but I didn't want to believe that it was really an issue. I tried to convince myself that there was nothing to worry about. I tried to tell myself that it would go away soon. But it had been way to long and it wasn't going away, instead it was getting bigger. I was absolutely terrified that it could be Cancer, but at the same time I had other family members who had had cysts so I tried to convince myself that it was probably the same, so one year ago today I called and made the ever important phone call to make an appointment with my Doctor to get it checked out...

And so it begins.....

Fast forward...
A year later, my stitches are healing, even though I continue to get at least 3-8 stitches each Wednesday. I am feeling better. I am definitely not back to normal. But I am getting closer. According to my husband I may never be normal, but then again I may not have been normal to begin with. I am just hoping that eventually I get to be as normal as I was in July of 2010... Not a care in the world, unless you count the usual cares of Work and Family. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A stitch in time saves nine

Well if this saying is true and that having one stitch done now will save me from having 9 more stitches later, I don't want to see what would cause 9 times the number of stitches I have had recently, not even counting the ones in the original surgery. I don't even have a guess at this point how many I had then. I keep meaning to ask my Doctor if he kept track, just for the record. But I keep getting distracted at my appointments, so that keeps getting missed.
During my surgery the doctor put in two skin grafts. They were small maybe 1 inch in radius. Unfortunately,  as my doctor warned may be possible, the center of each did not survive. So, last week I had a small procedure to remove the areas that were not thriving. It was a small in office procedure that took about 45 minutes, but let me tell you one thing... It is the Strangest Thing to be awake and watching your surgeon doing surgery on you while you are awake. I am not a fan of needles, so I closed my eyes during the time of the stitching. I am not sure how many stitches I ended up with but it seemed like around 18 in total for that visit. Through the weekend I had some redness and other things that made me worry about infection, so, I was back to the Doctors office today. Lucky for me he said it is a pretty superficial infection and was caught early enough that it shouldn't be an issue in the long run. So I got 10 new stitches and I'm back on another round of  Antibiotics and this time it better be for good. :) One "good" thing that we found during today's trip was that I am getting my feeling back around the surgical site... This is a good thing, but I would have preferred to continue to be numb until I am completely done with all this surgery business. I guess I will be relying on more pain meds for the remaining follow up's. I thought for sure that it would be a lot longer before I would have feeling, so I guess this is a good indicator that I am actually healing up and I do have hope of some small hint normality in my future. Hooray!!!

Switching gears a little; On Saturday I had the chance to celebrate the life of one of my biggest Cheerleaders since I had started this whole Cancer Road. My Friend/Manager/Co-worker Chad passed away of a heart attack last Sunday. I have spent the last week remembering the past 6-7 years that I have known him. But more recently, he was there to support me, and make fun of my bald head, my Crazy hats, my Chemo Brain, and my roller-coaster emotions. He was A Lot like my own big brother. Never letting me take myself too seriously! I am grateful to him for his advice. He had more than one family member who had gone through Cancer, and he was able to relate how he perceived the process. That was a great benefit for me since I knew that I could walk in to work and I could say what I felt and I knew it was likely something he had heard before and always seemed to have an upbeat answer to any of my problems. He was my Rock at work. And even after I was laid off he would call me at least once a week to check in on me and how I was healing up or how my job hunt was going. I am so grateful that he was there for me in all of my drama and could help me laugh about it all! I am glad that I was able to spend what was to me a short time getting to know such a great friend. Maybe I will type a little louder in his honor at my next job. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What I am looking forward to...

I am day-dreaming today. I have been kinda grumpy the last few days so I am trying to make this a good post that will help me feel better.
This past Wednesday I was wishing to have my drain tube removed from my tummy because not only is it annoying, but it actually is a little bit painful to have a constant open wound. But no matter how much I begged my Doc to take it out it was still draining too much for him to remove it. So I came home grumpy and sad that I would still have to have this dumb thing with me for a little longer. On the bright side he did tell me that no matter what he would remove it on my next visit and told me to schedule it on Monday so that it wasn't a full week that I would have to wait. So there is a True light at the end of the tunnel. It WILL be gone by Monday. Well Thursday my sweet Emma climbed up on the couch next to me and leaned on my drain tube. It actually pulled it out quite far and made it quite painful and interfered with the draining. I called my doc and he told me how to restart the draining and said that if it didn't drain any more then he would remove it on Friday... well I restarted it... and it actually started draining OK... then it quit again. I headed over to his office so he could remove it, and I just missed him (He wasn't taking appointments, it was his paperwork day.) He had just left a little bit before I got there. I knew I should have called to be sure, but I figured if I just hurried over then it would be fine... *sigh* I was wrong. In a new development it now only keeps suction if I am sitting. So it isn't doing me any good. But I guess that just seals it's fate to get it out for sure on Monday.

This is what the drain looks like for anyone who hasn't seen one. Mine is slightly different, but pretty close.

I am finally able to stand up a little more straight, and I am certain that with the removal of my drain that this will improve even more quickly. And with that I will also be able to lean over better with less pain, so maybe I can even start thinking about doing the dishes. Or even... dun dun daaaa... Cooking. I will be excited when I can lift up my kiddos and hold them on my lap and not have to worry about them knocking something loose. Additionally I am hoping that I will heal soon so I can get to the Chiropractor. I have wanted to go since Moarch, but haven't had a good way or time to do it. Sooo... Hopefully I will be ready soon and get myself "back" to normal. (HA HA... Yes that was Punny to me!) And lastly, I will be glad to start wearing normal clothes again. No matter how much I love wearing PJ's all day, every day, it will be nice to wear real clothes to the store. While I felt right in place at Walmart, I got some funny looks at the Grocery store.

So, Normal life follows current life and I, for one, am completely ready and excited to see what normal will end up as in the near future.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Re-Construction Zone

~~WARNING~~ The person writing this blog post is impaired by Multiple Pain Medications so rambling and or nonsense is possible and/or expected. Read at your own risk! ~~WARNING~~

Well... the big surgery is DONE!!! Last Tuesday I checked into the hospital for my DIEP Reconstruction. I was so nervous! There were things that I was better prepared for this time than I was not last time. I didn't bring so much stuff for one thing. Last time I wore Ear Rings and other Jewelry and I brought a ton of stuff in my suitcase... This time... I brought my Cell Phone and the clothes on my back. It was a lot less to worry about. While we were in the prep room I kept having Deja Vu. There was one girl there who was telling all of the allergies and issues they had that was going to make this the worst surgery ever, and then they brought in another gal who was having a total panic attack. in my Deja Vu memory one of them stood up and ran out of the room, with only the hospital gown on, screaming "I can't do this!! AAAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!" Thankfully this didn't happen, but it did have a way of making me feel so much more calm for myself. Since I had gotten through all of the preparations and was feeling pretty good. It was kinda funny but they actually required me to take a Pregnancy test. LOL... This really made me chuckle since I have several reasons that this is likely not even possible. But I humored them and acted very shocked when they told me it was negative. I was nervous about the PICC line but excited for it at the same time. I actually went into surgery with a basic IV so that made me feel a little bit better that I would not be 100% aware when they put it in. :)
Once I was all prepped they took me back to the OR. Back there it is just a crazy white room where the only colors were the scrubs on the nurses and the anesthesiologist. We came in and I had to get up on the operating table. The nurse and anesthesiologist start talking to me about my kids I was laughing about something and the next thing I know I was on my way to the ICU. While I was being taken from the recovery room to the ICU they drove me past the waiting room so they could pick up Alex. Well, he and all those who were sitting with him (Cindy, Suzie, and Mike and Anita (his Parents), was anyone else there? LOL) poked their head out the door to say HI and they chased the bed down the hall for a while. :) Good times! It was the fastest 13 hours of my whole life. I am not sure the exact time breakdown but a few of the highlights of the process that seem noteworthy... First thing that happened was the removal of my Expander's, then they cut my stomach from hip bone to hip bone. In order to gain access to all the veins and fat he had to also cut my belly button away from my skin. Apparently I had a small Hernia in my belly button from my previous pregnancies, so that was removed at this point as well. Somewhere in there the Doc noticed that my chest was not level because of a Rib bone. So he shaved off a small portion of the bone in order to make things sit better. Then came the fun part of pulling each "fat tree" by the Vein and disconnected it and reconnected it in my chest. I am assuming this is what took up most of the time. But once he was done with that part there was approximately 2 hours spent just giving me stitches. When I went in for my Mastectomy the stitches were not pretty, but this time you can definitely tell that more care was taken to get it so it would heal much prettier. At least as pretty as a scar that essentially cut me in half could look. Once this was completed I was in the recovery room for about 2 hours... of that time I think I remember opening my eyes once, it was too bright, so I closed them again and woke up in the ICU. Once I was in the ICU they set out to put in the PICC line. They had me hold my arm to the side while they determined where to place it. I did not look at any of the process, so don't ask me what they did or how they did it... lets just say it was done, and I barely felt any of it. It actually hurt more to get the xray to confirm that it was placed correctly than it hurt to get it in. But I can tell you right now my stay was so much easier when every time they wanted to have a blood sample they did not get a single needle near my skin. The nurse was able to collect it with a needle-less syringe and them give it to the Flebotomists. I smiled every time that happened. I know I made the right choice! One downside to the PICC line is that I have issues with some tapes and the one that they use for the PICC is one of them, so I ended up with some pretty good blisters from it. But they are already mostly healed, so I can't really complain much. I did get a few shots so that I could get my Blood thinner. It was a small light shot, so it didn't hurt when I was getting it, but it bruised every where that they poked me. All along the back of my arm and on each of my thighs. (They spread it out so that I didn't have one spot that was unbearable.) Well I can tell you that the blood thinner was doing its job because a few of the places that they stuck me with a needle was bleeding quite consistently. Once they noticed this they spent more time ensuring that they got it to clot before leaving me. So it was only an issue on a couple sites. Speaking of blood loss, I did at one point have low iron, so they needed to give me a small transfusion, but it was no big deal because of the PICC. I didn't have any ill effects from it.
Going into this surgery I was trying to decide how it would be in comparison to my Mastectomy. I figured that the tummy would be twice as bad and that the breast would be just slightly less painful than the Mastectomy. Well, I think I hit it mostly on the head... I think that the breast is barely painful at all.It helps that with my Mastectomy most of my nerves were "killed" Most of my pain came from the JP Drains. My stomach was pretty painful. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to use my tummy muscles to sit up and that my chest and arms would be too painful to help. Thankfully that was not the case. I did find that if I sit up by holding my legs behind my knees instead of pushing up on my bed that it was a lot less painful... and pulling directly up rather than over to the side was much better as well.
Walking... is a chore. I am grateful that my Mother in law had a walker to share with me or I am pretty sure that I would not be doing well. I can do short walks without it, and I am trying to do longer ones as often as possible, but it is nice to have the ability to rest and have the support of the walker when I need it. I do need to walk hunched over in order to keep the skin and muscles tight, and not pull out my stitches. This is not great on my back, but I am surviving it. The girls absolutely LOVE the Walker. When they came home on Wednesday they spend the bulk of that day taking turns pushing it around or playing on or around it.
The girls have been really great. They are always asking why I have to walk funny and I told them that the Doc gave me some big "Owies" so that I will be able to get better. I did show them my tummy because they were so curious. they also needed to see the bruises on my arm and legs. Once they knew where all of my "Owies" were they were able to accept it a little bit more. They still ask why the Doc had to give me such a big "Owie" and when will I be able to walk normal again, and I have not had a real easy answer for these questions yet. It is hard to talk about the Cancer still with the Little ones, and it is even harder to explain an "optional" plastic surgery when I am technically "All Better".
This week I went into the Doctor and it was quite a wonderful day. When I came home from the hospital I had 3 drains (one for each breast and one in my tummy) and I also had a Pain pump that was pumping pain meds through 2 tiny tubes directly into my tummy in order to control that pain more consistently. I was also sent home from the hospital needing Oxygen. Well at my appointment The Doc removed the 2 drains in my breasts and the 2 tubes for the pain pump and also tested my oxygen levels and determined that I was free to stop using that as well. So I went from being hooked up and basically tied down with tubes to only having 1 drain remaining, and that will likely be removed this coming week. It is then that I will start to feel more normal. I will be able to wear more normal clothes and bathe easier without worrying that I am going to cause any harm to the tube.
The timing can't be better since if I am chosen for a position next week I will have to go into their office for some testing and paperwork. So it will be nice to be able to go as a person rather than a patient. :)

Before I go I just want to give a huge THANK YOU to those people who helped me to get better. First and Foremost... My Hubby Alex. Without him I likely wouldn't walk as much as I needed or breathe into the little Breathing machine as much as I should, I would completely lose track of my pills, and I could definitely not be able to handle the girls. He has been the best help through this! I love you!! Additionally I want to thank All of the Nurses and Aides in the Hospital, My parents for watching the girls until we felt more ready to have them home, and to my wonderful neighbors who have been helping out with dinners. It is so nice to have one less thing to worry about. I am hoping that by the end of next week I will be mostly recovered and I hope to be able to cook something... or at least reach the microwave.... That will be a great time!!

I love you all and I welcome any questions or comments. I know I missed something that someone may want to know about. :)  Hugs!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The "vacation" is over!

OK, It has been a while since I have written up a new Blog Post. I have been on a "vacation" of sorts.
Radiation made me quite tired, and then once I got done I started feeling so much better that I didn't have time to just sit and blog. So I guess it is a good thing! :)
I will fill you in on a few things past and then update you on the things present and future. (A little like the Christmas Carol without all the ghosts. LOL) And hopefully I won't ramble too much and stay focused.

On June 1st 2011 I "graduated" from Radiation. This was a Great feeling, though a little bitter-sweet. Through my time going to Radiation I met some really great people and had some nice relaxing time working on the puzzles there. I worked on I believe 6 total puzzles ranging from landscapes, buildings, animals and fish. Though strangely enough I never actually had the opportunity to see any of them completed. I would always get them to the point that there were only 20-30 pieces remaining and would have to leave, and by the time I would get in the next day someone would already have it completed and a new puzzle would be started. This is the last view of my last puzzle that I was working on as I left.

On my way out I was given a Certificate of Completion and a Bottle of "Bubbly" (Sparkling Cider)

And it was great that I had Frank and his Wife come back into the office (even though he was done with his Radiation for the day) to hear me RING THE BELL! And I will tell you right now, I rang that bell with all of my Heart! I wanted the world to hear that I was DONE! And I was ringing it right the first time since I DO NOT plan on doing it again. :)

At my final Appointment with my Radiation Oncologist she let me in on a little secret... Even though I wasn't coming back, my Burn would only get worse before it got better. Essentially as she explained it to me, what they do today doesn't hurt you until about a week later... So all of the treatments were building up to that final week AFTER I graduated. I have to say I think my regimen of Aloe Creams and Vitamins helped me out A LOT!!! As far as my skin was concerned. I had to deal with itching and peeling, but for the most part it was "uncomfortable" more than it was painful, and I only got a couple very small blisters which went away fairly quickly. One thing I did not anticipate was that the burn would go all the way through me... They aimed at my collarbone in the front and I got a burn just above my Shoulder blade on my back!! That was odd! I now have a tan rectangle on my back. I bet you are jealous!! Right?!?! :) I could tell that after about 2-3 weeks after Graduation I started to come out of the Fatigue Fog that I was in. I was all of a sudden able to hold a train of thought for longer than 2 minutes, and I wasn't nearly falling asleep at stop signs anymore. Now this isn't to say that I am back to 100%, but I finally started to feel mostly normal. I could even lay on my right side while sleeping by the end of week 3, so that was a relief! And my girls could hug me without me cringing. And that made all the difference in the world!
I still have my lovely Expanders in, waiting for my Reconstruction Surgery. And they are less than Natural feeling, or looking... But even they are not bothering me as much lately. They are only really painful if one of the girls head-butts me or is climbing all over me too much. I can't be too rowdy, but I can at least hold them, hug them and carry them without pain. It is as if my body knows that I am nearing the end of this ugly road and giving me a glimpse of what I could be feeling like soon! I seriously cannot wait! Here is a picture that was posted on my fellow BC bloggers blog post a while back...

These are a sample of the Expanders that are being used to keep my shape for reconstruction. The white is a rigid plastic back and the dark circle is the port that is used to fill the Expanders with Saline and then it has a clear "bubble" that expands when filled. This is completely covered with Muscle and skin. I am grateful that this is not a Long term solution for me and will be removed next week. I do not like having alien products in my body, and they have been there since March!
On Tuesday July 19th 2011 I will check in to the Hospital for a procedure called DIEP Reconstruction. Put simply it will give me a "Tummy Tuck" and a "Boob Job" all at once! Great idea right?!?! I thought so. :) The more complex version of this is the fact that I will be in Surgery for most of the day. My Surgeon will be taking individual Fat "trees" at the Vein level detaching them and re-attaching them to veins in my chest muscle. This is a very long and arduous task, and I know that I personally would not want to be the guy doing it, and will be happy to sleep right through it. Once I am out I will essentially be in the ICU (there is another name for it when it is because of Surgery, but I don't recall it at the moment) because I will need to be watched like a hawk for the first 24 hours at least. If there are any of the branches that die because of Clotting or other issues they will need to take be back to surgery immediately. I hope that there aren't any issues, but I am glad that if there are that it should be caught early enough that it won't mean a second hospital stay to fix it... I hope! :) I have been Anti-Dieting since radiation got done. I don't want the Doc to run out of Fat stores to use, so I am making sure they are "healthy" by the time I go in for the procedure. ;)
As I said in my Mastectomy Post I have learned that I am NOT a fan of the Hospital... And I have discussed my IV options with the Doc to help make my stay at least a little more palatable. We are going with the PICC line so that I do not need so many needle sticks while I am there. This will be a great benefit I hope. But I am absolutely terrified of complications with the PICC. I am have never been and likely never will be OK with Needles. You would think after having 3 kids, Gestational Diabetes (poking my finger 4+ times DAILY) and Cancer that I would be "numb" to the idea of Needles... But NOPE! I still loathe the thought of them and have an intense fear of having them anywhere near me!

Additionally, I was recently given a great "opportunity" to find new employment. (thanks to a "reduction in Force") And in so doing I was given the opportunity to not be required to go back to work so quickly after my Reconstruction. (I have to see this as an opportunity right now so I don't get angry.) But the fact is that I had used up a great deal of my PTO for everything else and I would only have 2 weeks to take off for my reconstruction and then I would have absolutely nothing left after that and may have had to start taking leave without pay if I needed to take any other days off. This surgery is potentially going to take me at least 3+ weeks to be really up to par, so if I was still working I would not have the full 3+ weeks to heal in peace. Now, I will be gaining Unemployment, so I will still have to put in applications and it is possible that I will be required to go to interviews if they call while I am healing, but I guess I can fake normal for a couple hours to get that done. I am really praying that this was an opportunity to get me an AWESOME job, with fantastic hours and benefits. Though it is highly unlikely that I will find one quite as flexible with working from home as my prior job. But at the same time once I am done with this and my Follow up surgery(s), I should not need quite the same flexibility, and I can start using PTO, like a normal mom, for when I have a cold or when one of the girls is sick, instead of Chemo and surgeries. I hope that I have applied for my last FMLA and can just be ready to have a real life again.

Real life... it is in my not so distant future... I can feel it...
And it feels GREAT!!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Race For The Cure!

What a wonderful day!
There is not a better way that I could have started the day than how it began. I was all ready to go and when my mom and dad came to pick me up so we could carpool and not have too many cars to handle in the crowds Dad gave me a gift that my Uncle Lynn had made. It is absolutely Beautiful and really put me in the right "Survivor" frame of mind so that this Race could be a Celebration. What was this Gift? You may ask? It is a Beautiful Plaque Engraved and stained in a wonderful Wooden scroll with one of the best sayings for anyone living with Cancer.

"Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit."

~Author Unknown~

We Picked up Cindy and got to the Gateway very early so we would certainly not miss any of Team Nuke-M-Boobies who was coming. Here we are at the meeting place that we had agreed on.
The inspiration for the Team name and the hats came from the fact that I was about a week and a half into radiation and wanted to play with this a little. The hats are intended to be a Mushroom Cloud and is adorned with the "Radioactive" symbol to drive that point home. It is funny that there were some people who got it immediately but others simply called us the Bakers. I got thinking about it after the event and realized that it fit as well... though I was being "Baked" rather than being the Baker. LOL! It wasn't too long before people started to show up and more and more hats began to be worn in the group. It was so wonderful that so many came to support me and the Cause of Breast Cancer Awareness and a CURE! I have the best Family and Friends in the world and would be nothing without all of you guys!

It was fun to see all the other outfits that people were wearing, team names and other ways they were showing their support for the Cause!

After not too long the race started... too bad we were still at the meeting spot when they started it and it took us nearly 30 minutes to make our way to the starting line because the crowd was so massive! Here is a view just as we made it across the Starting Line. People as Far as the eye can see!
In hindsight having started so late I probably should have taken the 1 mile route so that I could spend more time relaxing, but I enjoyed the walk with those who were with me! I was fortunate that the Radiation had not yet begun to burn my skin yet. It was only sapping my energy a little. It was perfect timing! :)
Here is proof that I did the whole thing. I didn't get a Pic of me with the Mile 3 marker, but I got the one at the finish line. :)

What a great Walk!

I got through the finish line just in time to join the Parade of Survivors. Although I was in the wrong group, as the Newly Diagnosed had passed earlier, I made it up to the Stairs where all of the survivors were headed. It was quite a sight to see all of these wonderful women who have been through the same battle as I am fighting and have WON! I ended up standing there next to a woman who was a 30 year survivor! How wonderful it was for me to see that while I am in a stage where it is so new in my own life.

I won't lie, I started my day with tears, and I had many tears in the midst of the event, and even more after I came home. But it was such an uplifting thing to be a part of! I have done it in the past for Family and Friends, but this time I did it for Me! And I hope that in some small way My contribution and those funds that Me and my wonderful Team were able to raise will be able to get us one step closer to finding a cure, so that My Daughters don't have to hope for a cure for Their Daughters.
In Addition; I hope that those people who hear my story will not be scared to find that lump, That they will get their check-ups and if they do find one that they will not be scared to get it checked out and treated! There is a wonderful Sisterhood out there and while it is never the club I would have signed up for on purpose, I am happy that there are so many inspirations to help me through each and every day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Radiation has begun

Well, It has started and I guess there is no turning back now. My "Dry Run" was on 3/26, Ironically this is the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster. While thier Radiation was definitely a tragedy, that took many peoples lives (immediately or not) mine will hopefully help extend my life considerably. I have had 3 radiation treatments so far and I have 22 left. Not on the downhill yet, but I will get there. I should be done by the end of May, so long as I don't have to delay any of my treatments for any reason. It is common to delay treatments as time goes by to help the skin heal, or if I get sick. I hope and pray that neither of those cases happen to me so I can be in and out as quickly as possible.
I was curious about how this whole thing would work so I will walk you through a treatment. Maybe it will help you if you are going to go through it, or at least it will help demystify it if you are just curious. The office I go to has the process down to an art. They schedule my appointments, and I have to be there, changed and ready to go back at the minute of my appointment. They took a picture of me on Day One so that they could have a Facial Recognition. I don't have to Check in at the front desk, I simply walk in (the back door) change into that "lovely" hospital gown we all know and love, and have a seat in the waiting room and they watch for me and call me as soon as they are ready for me. If I am early enough, and the waiting room isn't too busy I get to sit for a minute at the Puzzle Table. They have a puzzle out for the patients and others who come with them can have something to do while they are waiting. The first day, I was only able to get 1 piece in before they called me back, but the second day I was earlier and I actually got 6 pieces in. And on the 3rd day I was able to attach a few large chunks, I am thinking about being 30 minutes early for my appointments so I can get more done. LOL There was a lady sitting at the Puzzle Table when I came to my Friday appointment. She had finished her daily treatment 20 minutes before, but she wanted to get that last bit of the puzzle put together. It is kind of a nice escape from the norm so that you don't have to think about what is going on, and just focus your energy on the puzzle. I think more Dr's Offices should have a Puzzle Table. Especially the ones who notoriously have long wait times.
Once they call my name I head back behind The Curtain This is the Mysterious corner that only the Patients and Doctors can go because of the possible radiation. At that point I confirm that the picture on the computer is me and that they have my proper xray up and aren't going to Radiate the wrong place, then I sign the "permission slip" to go ahead for the day. We then go back to what I consider the Dungeon because it is usually dark so that they can easily see the laser lights that line up with my tattoos. This is when I lay down on the table and they move me around until my Tattoos line up with the laser lights then I get moved back under The Beast. The Beast is this Giant Radiation Machine that moves around to target whichever specific location that they are targeting. Once I am there the remaining process only takes about 8-10 minutes. They radiate at 3 angles. Directly on top then from one side, then from the other. The Beast makes several clicking and buzzing noises at each position, then I am done.
I feel nothing except the pull on my muscles as I hold the stationary position for that time. And so far I have not had any real ill effects. The first day I felt icky for the remaining day after treatment, but since then I have not had any other issues besides being a little tired. I talked to my Dr about it and she said that I will likely start having more effects by the end of this coming week or middle of the following, so we'll see where that goes.
And now for the Pictures. Enjoy!

Sneaking in through the Back Door

The Beast- The table ends at the circle on the floor and the tan part rotates around that spot.

This is my View for the first several minutes of treatment. Very Exciting!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nerves and skin and more

Well, Here it is... the week that I will be mapped and potentially start Radiation treatments. I am stressing out a little. It is one more thing that no one can tell me exactly what to expect. I only know the basics. I will go in this week and they will put little tattoos to map out the general area that will be radiated. Unfortunately these tattoos will not be stylish or fun, they will just be little "connect-the-dots" dots. I am not looking forward to that part because I hate Needles soo bad. I may need a Valium to get through it... but I will try to make it through without since I will be at work most of the day and have to drive to the Dr's office, it will probably be best if I have a clear head. Once this part is done I will be going in (about a 45+ minute drive each way) 5 days per week for 5 weeks for an approximately 30 minute visit with "controlled radiation". In order to do this I will have to stand and hold two bars that will be placed behind my head. This is the part I can't imagine right now as I have a strip of tight skin that extends from the scar, where my lymph nodes were removed in my arm pit, down to my elbow. This causes any movement where my elbow is lifted upwards very difficult and in some cases painful. I have been working on this for a few weeks, and I am now able to get my elbow pretty close to a 90 degree angle without screaming, so I think I may be close enough to be able to start the process. Only the doctor can tell me for sure, so I will know on Tuesday. This is as far as my knowledge takes me. The rest of it is a bunch of possible side effects. I may be fatigued, I may get a sunburn, it may make me nauseated, and it may be no big deal. I have absolutely no idea if I will be on one side of the extreme or the other or somewhere in the middle.
To prepare myself for the worst, I have begun taking supplements that are supposed to help with the health of my skin, and I have also started using 2 Aloe based creams (Miracle Aloe Cream and Aloe Propolis Creme) so hopefully between them all I can help my skin from the inside out and the outside in. If this combination works for me then I will not have to worry about the sunburn side of it as much and will just have to worry about the nausea and fatigue. Either that, or I won't have either one, or just one or the other... But in the beginning I am doing the same as I did with Chemo, I am preparing for the worst that I can imagine, and if it is better than that, I am great! But if it is the same as I imagine then at least I am "ready for it" in a sense.
With the Surgery I had nothing to gauge what it would be like since I had never had anything like it before in my life, and there were again so many variables or possible reactions that I had no idea which one I would have. Now I have a reference point of how I handle this type of surgery. I guess it is the same with cancer treatments; If I can compare it to the time spent doing Chemo, and I know I made it through that time, and I have had some really "good" sunburns and I survived them too, so I have to believe that I've got this. Now I just need to deal with the Scheduling logistics of this process. Yet another question mark in the process. I don't know when I will be going in each day, and I don't know how to deal with the kiddo's during that time. After Tuesday I should have a better idea of the schedule, then I can deal with how to handle the kids.
On a side note: As I am getting my life back to "normal" after surgery and getting back more of my home and parental duties I am ever grateful for a Husband who is willing and able to handle the kids and house when I can't. Alex has been doing anything that involves more than talking, walking or sitting for the past 3-5 weeks. He has also been willing to let me have "breaks" from doing nothing all day so I can go out with friends and family to help keep me sane. I am not promising that it is keeping any of us truly sane, but everyone is still alive. :) Now that I can lift my Danielle I can offer him more of those sanity breaks that he needs. I am actually going to attempt a full work day home with the kids all by myself tomorrow. I think I am ready to give it a shot. I have been doing almost everything on my own today even though Alex has been home most of the time, just to make sure I can do it, and I have my mom on call just in case I need something. I anticipate a wonderful day where the kids do exactly as they are told, won't complain about what I fix for lunch, and take their naps right on schedule.... DREAMING!!! But I do think that most of the issues that they can cause I can handle now. Just don't expect me to get anything above the basics done. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How am I feeling? Today...

Well it is just over 3 weeks since my Mastectomy and Lymph node removal surgery, so I thought I would answer the age old question. "How are you feeling?" (I reserve the right to change my reply at any time... or multiple times while writing this.) :)
I am doing pretty well, all things considered. On Monday I met with both surgeons and the (RO)Radiation Oncologist. When I met with the first surgeon (Dr Porretta) she was able to remove my surgical drains. This was a great milestone! I was definitely ready for this to happen as they had definitely become extremely annoying, and one of the stitches that was holding the left one in place had broken and was less than comfortable. So that was a great thing to have gone! The next appointment was to meet with the RO to find out the schedule/plan to start the radiation process. Well, part of me was relieved and the other part was impatient with the reply. I am not ready for radiation. The problem is Flexibility. In order to be "Mapped" and get the Radiation Therapy I need to be able to put both hands behind my head and hold onto some handles there for 30 minutes during the treatment. At the time of the appointment I was only able to just barely lift my elbow away from my ribcage and slightly forward or backward... Not even close to where I need to be to start the process. They offered either 2 or 3 weeks for me to get my flexibility back, I opted for 3 since it seemed that I had a REALLY long way to go. As of this morning I am able to touch behind my ears with both hands. So I am not too far from the goal. Maybe I should have scheduled it out only 2 weeks... but at least this way, I may be able to have a somewhat normal time before I have to endure Radiation. I have no idea how my body will react to Radiation. I have heard 2 different sides. Some who have gone through it have said that it is so much easier than Chemo... others say it was harder on them than Chemo... The only thing I know for sure is that the scheduling of Radiation will be tougher than Chemo. With Chemo I only had to go in 2-3 times every 3 weeks and it was only a 10-15 minute drive each way, however, with radiation I will need to go 5 days a week and will have to drive at least 45 minutes each way. That is a lot of driving. I am not looking forward to this at all. Hopefully the effects will be minimal so that the only real "pain" will be the travel. My last Dr visit that day was a pretty big pain. It was my Plastic Surgeon (Dr Rodrigues). He needed to add Saline water into the Expanders which will help preserve my own skin through Radiation and up until time for reconstruction. Well, that put a lot of pressure on my new "wounds" from my drain removal. In hindsight, I should have had these appointments at least a couple days apart from each other. I think I would have been a lot better off. I think it was just too much trauma for one day. I have been off of the "heavy duty" pain killers like Lortab and Percocet for about a week and a half now, but I was wishing I had some left over for that day. Luckily the Dr was right when he said after a few days that pain and pressure would be much better. (Luckily for him, since I would have beat him if that would have lasted much longer.) 
This week I worked most of the week, albeit completely from home, since I didn't have enough arm movement to allow me to drive. I was mostly clear minded because I was not taking the pain killers. It was good that I had Family who could come and sit with me and the girls. I still can't lift anything over 20 lbs. That includes Danielle, my baby, she is about 24 lbs. And I also can't reach many things that are very much taller than me... which isn't saying much. LOL But with a step I can get things into and out of the microwave, so that is a good thing! And yesterday my mom trusted me to experiment with my driving skills and let me drive her car. I am happy to report that there were no catastrophes. We all made it home without any harm. :)
Today is a milestone. I was able to get on a shirt that was not one that buttons up the front. Granted it was not easy, nor was it pain free, but I got it done. I will continue to wear button up shirts for a while until this is easier, and less painful.
My hair is coming back pretty well. It is still pretty thin in several patches, but 3 weeks of growth is definitely apparent. The girls find it pretty entertaining to touch my head and check out the new hair. I just find it weird to reach up and have this hair up there that is reminiscent of petting a short hair dog like a boxer. however my eyebrows and eyelashes that have been mostly normal through all of Chemo have been falling out like mad this week. We'll see if they end up going away completely now that I am getting hair on my head again.
My girls have been great! Katelynn and Emma are very good at giving me "gentle" hugs. Danielle needs a little help though. But she is only 15 months old, so I can't really expect her to know. Emma has been trying to get me Exercise since I tell her that getting up and doing exercise helps make you feel better. So she is always trying to make me feel all better. We'll see if I am ready to do some exercise soon so that I can feel all better for Emma. I did buy some new Running shoes. I need to break them in (even if I don't actually run with them) before the Race for the Cure on May 7th. I don't want to end up with Blisters after that day. I am hoping it will be a great time! 
I am healing pretty well, but I am still dealing with swelling, muscle pains and some pain around each incision. Here's hoping that this week will be even better than last week and that the next will be even better. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There's No Place Like Home!

I have always believed that there is No Place Like Home, but this week has absolutely proven this point.
On Friday 3/4, 5 months after my original diagnosis, I underwent surgery for a Bilateral Mastectomy including the removal of all of the Lymph Nodes under my right arm. My day started at 4:30 AM so I could be ready to meet with the Plastic Surgeon before getting to the hospital at 6:30. Once I was all checked in I found out that I was Surgery #1! Just to reinforce that I am #1! As I was getting ready... the one thing that I found the silliest.... I had to wear a Hair Net on my bald little head. LOL I guess it was possible that one of my little whiskers could have caused an issue. LOL But I was ready to go. So Alex parked himself in the Waiting room and watched for the progress of #1 on a TV in there. According to the Doctors (Dr Porretta and Dr Rodrigues) the surgery went well. Nothing happened that was unexpected. And they have sent the remnants to be tested to give a full prognosis. Hopefully I will know about those results soon.
Recovery on the other hand I can't say was Normal. Friday I was pretty well dosed to keep me out of pain and discomfort. But I was likely not able to form a coherent sentence or conversation with my many visitors. By Saturday, I was a little better. I was not falling asleep in the middle of a conversation quite as often. But that isn't to say that I didn't do it on occasion. It was a bad night though. I ended up getting a high Fever late in the night, and I spent a lot of time being Cold and Hot and cold and hot because of fevers coming and going. On Sunday I was able to stand up and walk. But it was the beginning of the end of my patience with phlebotomists. I have NEVER liked needles for any reason. I have given blood before, but I HATE it. I have had so many blood tests and IV's because of pregnancy and child birth, but never got used to it then. Even through Chemo where every 3 weeks or more I was getting Blood tests and or Chemo through IV. And Still I have not become comfortable with the process or the use of needles. But it was this day that I had 4 sticks within only a few hours and they were in my hand. I can tell you, those are the worst! But since I had an IV in my wrist they could only take blood above it. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Anyways they were taking extra blood to rule out some infections that would be causing my fever. Well, They ruled out nothing. Then I had a Chest X-ray to rule out Pneumonia. With all the tests they took it told them nothing. At that point my original IV started causing some swelling in my arm so they had to switch it. Because of the swelling they had a hard time finding a vein. They brought in one Nurse from the ER to help and she gave up, and they brought in another one from the ER as well as an Ultrasound machine to find the veins better. Well... it took 3 attempts (Poke, Miss, Grind the needle around for a while to see if they can still find it... give up... repeat...) and finally they were able to get it in, in the tiny vein in my wrist. Now this basically got the job done, but would clot anytime I did not have fluid going through it, and I could no longer bend my wrist or it would stop the flow. It was also in a spot that made getting any other blood samples even more impossible. Monday I had another Fever in the morning, and still we did not know why, so my Dr said that if I could be free of any Fever for 24 hours then they would send me home! This was the best statement I had heard in Days, so I was determined to not get a fever, I would not even allow myself to stay warm. Poor Alex was sitting in my room freezing. He had multiple layers on at all times so as not to freeze, but I did not want the room temperature to effect my body temperature. It is not likely that this is the reason why I did not have a fever, but I didn't want to accidentally cause myself to get too warm.
Wednesday Morning was absolutely miserable. The Phlebotomist came at 6 am to try to get their daily dose of blood, and after 2 tries, gave up and said he would send someone else. Then at 7 came #2, she tried 2 more times, gave up and sent someone else. #3 came in tried once, Gave up, sent someone else, she came in and decided that she would likely not get anything out of my veins so she poked my fingertip and squished it to death to get two itty bitty vials of blood to do their test. And in between these attempts and breakfast I had to go get one more Chest X-ray. Then once I had officially reached 24 hours after my last Fever, they took my temperature and I was 98.2! My nurse told me she would call my Dr right away and see if I could get sent home. My Dr was in a meeting and she sent her partner. He came in and with a smile on his face said "Are you ready to go home?" I gave him a very emphatic "Yes!" And he said that there was no reason to keep me and he would let the nurse know so that she could get the process going. A tear of joy came to my eye. There was a Light at the end of the tunnel! I was almost ready to go home and stop being poked and prodded! THEN..... The blood Test results came in... My Iron level had apparently dropped from 27 to 22 in those same 24 hours. The Doc came back in and said the words that nearly killed me... "We are going to have to keep you for another day." The Then he added something else that kicked me while I was down, "We need to try to get more blood to test." Then he added the final words that, at that point I felt were just as bad as telling me that I wasn't going to live past that hour, "We may have to give you a Blood Transfusion." The Flood gates opened up and I couldn't do anything but cry. I pleaded with him that they can't possibly get any more blood out of me. I promised if they sent me home I would take my Iron Pills. I would Eat Spinach! I would do anything and everything in my power to get my Iron Levels up and I promised that if I had any symptoms of Anemia I would come back, but I could NOT handle being in the hospital one more day. He said that they needed to try to get some blood, so the nurse tried in my IV, but with it being so small she was only able to get a couple drops. She gave up and said she would not try it anymore. They all left the room for a few minutes and the Dr came back in and said, "OK, you can go home, but you have to come back in the morning to get a blood test" This test was to make sure that my Iron is either staying the same or going up. I was still in fits, but I was able to manage to say "Thank You!" I got one final Pain Pill and the nurse hurried and got all the paperwork together to get me out of there. I was in a lot of pain as I was getting my stuff together and getting dressed, but I felt so much better than ever just because I knew I was not going to sleep there one more night, and I would not have to get poked one more time!
The ride home was Bumpy. We had to stop at the pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled. While there we picked up a few food items to keep us covered until I can actually do some grocery shopping in a week or more. Then I was home. I was able to sit on the couch. Take a nap in the quiet of the house without any fear of being interrupted by the nurses. It was the best sleep ever, then I was able to wake up and have dinner (Thank You Neighbors!!) And I was able to sleep in my own bed. I slept for a WONDERFUL 8 hours! (while 8 hours without my Pain meds is not a great idea, I will deal with that pain for a Short period of time to avoid the pain of having to get more blood drawn at the hospital! I was able to have a Wonderful Breakfast cooked my Awesome Hubby! Once I had a chance to feel ready to go back to the hospital to get the blood test we headed out. Drove the Long and Bumpy road back. I walked in and told them that my veins were strictly off limits and that they could poke my finger to get any blood amounts they wanted. She was able to get 2 easy vials from my finger. (she did 2 just so she wouldn't have to poke me again if something went wrong with the first one.) We sat and waited in the waiting room to hear if we would need to check back into the hospital for the Transfusion or if we could go home and be able to live our lives in peace for a while. About 15 minutes later we got the good news that we were free to go because I was back up those 5 points that had dropped the day before! Yes, more tears of joy! Driving back again was painful, but joyful and the feeling of relief that I had inside made it all worth it. I would drive around all day as long as it meant that I wasn't in the hospital.
Last night I was able to sleep for 9 solid hours! I was able to eat real food. It Really hit the spot! (Again a Big Thanks to my Neighbors!) And I was able to watch some of the shows that I have been recording while away so I could have something entertaining when I wanted it. :) And today I had yet another Yummy home cooked Breakfast! And tonight I get my kids back home. Life Doesn't get any better than this!! (OK, I could be better if I didn't have to deal with the recovery pain, but all things considered this is the best time in my life!)

Things I have learned from this stay:
1- If I am going to be in any hospital for more than 1 day I will REQUIRE that they put in a "Pick-Line" rather than an IV so they can just take blood through that instead of poking me 7 bazillion times.
2- Some people "want to" stay in the hospital a long time to get the free food and rest/relaxation..... I am officially NOT one of those people.
3- There is such a thing as a Better Nurse and a Better Aide! I had some nurses who truly seemed to take interest in getting me healed and ready to go home. Other nurses seemed to only be there to administer my drugs and change my IV bag. Don't get me wrong, those are important tasks, but it only goes so far. Even though I know none of them will read this blog I want to say Thank You to Liz, Snezana and Cindy for being so great! And Thanks To Gabe who got me Walking the first time, And Snezana and Anabelle who got me walking farther.

And now for some Chocolate Cake.....

Monday, February 28, 2011

Komen Race For The Cure

If you are on Facebook, this may be "old news", but I have to share with everyone. :)

I have registered for the 2011 Race for the Cure at the Gateway Mall on May 7th. I have opened up a Team for Fundraising so we can all bring in a little, but together it will look like a lot! If you are local feel free to join my team here Team Nuke-M-Boobies You can join me at the Race, either walking or Running, or you can join my team and "Sleep In For The Cure" Meaning you do not need to actually come down, you will just help us in our fundraising and other support. I will likely be Walking as I will be going through Radiation at the time (making the Team Name even more relevant) and I am not sure how sore I will be at that point. BTW, there is a 5k or a 1 mile, so you can do as much or as little as you can. I don't want to kill anyone if you are not up for something too long. But I would Love to see as many of you as possible!
On the same link it will give you the option to donate as well if you don't want to join the team. For donations to count towards my team total they have to be submitted by 4/22, *BUT* That doesn't mean that you CAN'T donate after that date. MY goal is not for me to get the most donations within My group, even though that would be cool. Instead it is to keep building awareness and do my part to help fund additional research for earlier detection and better treatments and eventually A Cure!!
If you want more information about the the Event as a whole check out the main page here Race Info

I haven't decided what I want to do to help differentiate us as a team on race day. If I want to do a Special Shirt, or Hat, or Tutu Or what... If anyone has any suggestions please share! There are about 2 months before the race! This should give us plenty of time to get organised. If we can keep it Fun then I won't have to Cry! :) (though I make no promises that I won't)

In case you are wondering about the Team name... Here is my inspiration: T-shirt I figured I needed to change it up just enough so I wasn't going to get into any copyright issues. ;)

Love you all!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out with the Old...

Well here it is. A day that I thought would take FOREVER to come. And it did take a long time. As of February 1st it was 126 days to be exact! It is the day that I could say, "I am done with Chemo!!!!!" I still have some side effects, but I No longer have to go back to my Oncologists office and sit there getting my veins filled with the Chemotherapy Drugs! That is a great feeling. After going through this for the last 18+ weeks I can honestly say I am TIRED! I have never had so many semi-regular naps and still been so extremely exhausted. With this it is really hindering my memory, schedules and so on.

I am 1 week away from the next step in the journey. Surgery! Hooray! OK, not really, but I am excited to get it over with because it is one more thing that I will never have to do again. As, I think, I have said before I have opted for a Double Mastectomy. So that is definitely not going to be happening again. I have been building up enough anxiety for this that I have brought back my usual insomnia. I just can't slow my brain down enough to get to sleep. It is not even the surgery that I am thinking about most of the time. It is the dishes, other housework, my girls health, shopping, cars, work, family, friends, books, TV shows, games, nothing and everything else in-between. But I plan on sleeping through as much of the pain/discomfort of the surgery, so that will help me catch up on any sleep that I am missing leading up to it. It will be an interesting time since I won't be able to lift any of my girls for at least 2 weeks and potentially longer depending on my healing. I am happy that I will have a lot of help around the house until I am ready to be "normal" again. (I can never claim to be completely normal, so I just call myself "normal" at best)

I had my follow up appointment with my Oncologist this week. I have found out a couple things. The first thing is that with the ridges on my fingernails comes the possibility that my nails could fall off. She said they look OK, right now, but it is not out of the question. I have been having temporary pain similar to how it feels a couple days after hitting your finger with a hammer. It is pretty tender. But at least it is not all day or every day. But other than that, a few residual effects from the Taxotere and my Menopausal side effects, AKA Hot Flashes, will be hanging out for a little bit, then I should be on the path to recovery on that stage. Then after surgery I will begin Radiation and Hormone Blocking therapy. I am not sure how I will react to that, so we will take it as it comes.

My hair is already starting to grow. I had to shave my legs. BOOOO!!! I have absolutely enjoyed having a vacation from that duty! It is a slow growth, and not a complete growth, but enough to be annoying at this point. With this new development I am faced with the decision as to how to handle the growth of hair on my head. I have had some sparse hair growth on my head throughout the process, and have been keeping it shaved down, once a week or less, and now I need to decide when to let it start growing in. Likely, I will not have the strength or possibly the ability to keep shaving on my own after my surgery, so that may force my decision a little, but I am not sure the amount of growth in the few weeks following will be significant enough to warrant anything too drastic, but we'll see I guess.

For now I am working hard to get my home and work in order enough that I can take a couple of weeks completely off and heal. Here's hoping that I can get it there. If you come in my house and think it should be Quarantined..... I didn't succeed. :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Embracing the Lemons!

It is not only me embracing the Lemons! I have recently gotten a couple gifts recently that made me smile and helped to remind me to continue to make Lemonade!
The first was from my Mom. She found this cute Towel, I don't think I could make this recipe exactly since I don't have a Well, but I think I could make do. :)
Then I got this cute package from my friend in New Jersey. It is so awesome! This definitely Made me Laugh Out Loud! Which I definitely needed after a day of sick kiddos.

I can't say how Thankful I am to be surrounded with Caring Wonderful people around me (and even in far distances) Every Prayer is felt and Every thought is appreciated!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Who'd a Thunk it?

So I noticed this week that each Chemo has brought me a new side effect. This one is not one that effects my daily life but notable none-the-less.
With every Chemo I get a little white ridge in my fingernails. So currently I have a pretty good ripple effect going on. I can see 4 ridges, and I assume that I will have the ridge for my 5th treatment within a week or 2, then for a little while after my final treatment I will have a full set of 6. Weird!

I will also got a picture of the FIRST bruise caused by the IV. I expected A LOT of bruises when this started, since I have been bruising more easily, and often any needle poke would generally cause an extra "artwork" on my arms. My regular Chemo Nurse has been REALLY good and she has managed to get through 4 treatments without even a spot, then they called in a replacement from the other office... for treatment #5 and let me tell you we were not amused. She missed the vein and instead of pulling it out and trying again she did the ever so pleasant "dig around for it until you get it" maneuver. So... I now have a wonderful bruise to show the world. But, at least she did get it IN the vein so that it didn't burn off my arm.

We'll see how blissfully Chemo #6 goes and hope that my "Regular" is there waiting for me!