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.







Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not a Hypochondriac, and Other Dr Stuff

So at my last Dr visit with my Oncologist. I rattled off all of the "weird" things I have noticed happening since my prior visit... Bruises that show up for no reason and are gone almost as quickly. Random pains and craziness in my head... I told him that I feel like I am a total Hypochondriac... Well... He reassured me that I am not... I am only Hyper-Sensitive. I am not sure if that is A lot better, but he did say that it is a good thing to a point. As long as it isn't stopping me from living my life. So far that isn't happening, but it is causing me to just constantly take pictures of weird things just in case it gets worse... My camera is getting full, so I need to knock it off. :) I will be trying harder.

It was nice to have them not stressing about my weight this time though. Last time I had gained 8 lbs in 3 months, so it was not the direction I needed to be... I dropped those 8 and then some by this appointment, I am as happy about that as they are, but I am hoping to drop that much again by my next appointment in January... That will be hard because the holidays are coming again... I am hoping I can keep some willpower to get where I want to be.

They took some blood to check my levels on everything. Especially my hormones. It is looking highly possible that I am on my way through Menopause, and that I may be done for good. I am hopeful for that to be the case. I want to be done. I am not sure how I would react if I came out of menopause to be "normal"again. I haven't had a period since November 2010 and I am not complaining there! I am OK with keeping it that way.

Let's see... last time I posted it was once again about stitches... Well, things are going the right direction. A couple weeks ago Dr R was worried that my stitches were creating additional holes and not holding well enough to keep them, so we took them out to give my skin a rest for a week. Over the next couple days those holes that were created by the stitches were completely healed.So that is a Great Thing! So this means that we will likely leave the stitch even if it is causing a small hole because it will likely heal faster than the original incision. So this past week He gave me a new set of internal stitches (tacked down to the healthy tissue under the skin around the expander) and a new set of external stitches, and Glue, and "steri-Strips" to keep it all together. It seems to be doing the trick. The incision is looking really pretty good so far, and it has been 4 days, it is usually day 3-4 that things start going sour. Also the new hole under my arm has nearly healed up as well, so that is a good thing as well... I am encouraged by these developments, but I am still not really sure if I expect to be done by the end of the year, but if things heal up soon enough we could be pretty close.

What am I doing to keep things that way? I am using Baby Oil, with Vitamin E and Aloe, to help keep the skin around the stitches healthy. I am alternating with Neosporin and straight Vitamin E oil on the wound and cleaning it with Hydrogen Peroxide to keep it clear of any infections. So far that is working, I haven't been on any Antibiotics since my last surgery, and that was just precautionary!

Taking less pills on a daily basis is definitely a good thing for me. I am still on the Tamoxifan, and Aspirin (since Tamoxifan causes blood clots) and 2 pills for the hot flashes caused by the Tamoxifan as well, then I am on Vitamin D to keep me on a high level there since Chemo was apparently still effecting that. If I could get rid of the Tamoxifan I would be rid of the other three pills too, that would be so nice.

I am coming up on 2 years from my Diagnosis date. I really thought I would be done and feeling like I was at least getting back to normal by now, but honestly this has become a new normal and I am learning to just roll with the punches. Besides I have no real reason to complain since I have the "Curable Cancer"... there are so many others who get a more bleak diagnosis. Things can always be worse that what I am having to deal with. It is just a time for me to learn to find those silver linings on each of the storm clouds. And focus my efforts there instead of on the storm.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

If it's not one thing....

To quote Dr R from my appointment yesterday, "If it's not one thing it is another with you." I am finally having success healing on my right breast. It has been really nice... and then... This week an old scar popped open under my arm. Lucky enough it is not tight skin, so he was able to stitch it up pretty easy. Now I have to keep my arm down yet again... Hooray! So I am back in my sling at least part time to help me remember to keep my arm down...

He said that I have the Record in his experience of the most stitches... Unfortunately we haven't been officially keeping track of each one, but he estimates that I have had more than 1000 stitches... Anyone had that many or more? It is not really a record that everyone would want to have I think...

But over all, even with this little hiccup, I am feeling pretty good.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Worth a try...

Well, we are trying something new this week. Since my DIEP surgery nearly 1 year ago I have never been able to heal completely. I have had a few weeks here and there that it looked like it was going to happen only to have my skin split open once again... Well, we decided this week that we need to take out any "foreign body" in my right side in order to give me the best chance of healing then once it is healed up we are going to just let it be healed for at least 6 weeks... Hopefully this will help my skin get a little bit more normal. Once I don't have a continuous open wound I will be able to have more freedom to for topical skin treatments (vit E, aloe, etc) that will help it to heal as well. I Can't Wait!! As I told my Doc today... It is not painful mostly since the Mastectomy basically killed all of my nerves that would have any pain, so I guess I am lucky that way. The only pain I have is when I get hit or kicked by a child or when I get a blister because of the tape or band aid that I have to use. And those are generally pretty short lived, so I really can't complain too much since it is just a nuisance more than anything else. I know others have had much worse situations than this. So I can handle it.

So what did we do today? I went in this morning to have my Expander removed. This was a STRANGE thing for me, to say the least. I have gotten used to the process of getting stitches and even having small amounts of cutting and Surgeries while I am awake, to a certain extent, but this was a really weird feeling. He only had to cut the hole, that was already there, just a little bit bigger in order to get it out. He grabbed a hold of it with a set of medical pliers to Yank it out. Bear in mind that this expander is roughly 4 by 6 inches oval, and he only had an opening that is about 2 inches.... So... It was a little like Childbirth in my breast... Once removed, he wiped out all of the hole that was left to ensure that there wasn't any other tissue or fluid that could potentially cause any sort of infection. This feeling is not something I can describe at all, Only to say that it is Weird! Once this was done he cut out some of the scar tissue that had formed around the expander and then sewed me back up... Then the last Weirdness came when he used a needle to pull out any air that was left in the opening that was created with the void of the expander. That is pretty strange to say the least.

This is truthfully the first time since my Mastectomy in March 2011 that I really don't have any sort of breast. I am not sure how I feel about this yet... I have so much Gauze on right now that I haven't actually seen it yet, so I can't say if this will bother me... Or not... It is something that has been in the back of my mind since this morning, but with the massive bandaging that the Dr put on I didn't want to pull it before needed. He literally used most of a roll of tape to secure the 10-15+ Gauze pads... Thankfully he told me that I don't need to do this after today.  That could be ugly if that was the case. Additionally, I do not have any lifting restrictions or anything, unlike the ones I have had previously. So, I can still take care of my kiddo's normally. That is Awesome! Especially now that it is summer time!

Looking forward to some time off from Stitches and "active" healing!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sleeping, Healing and Racing

It has been a while since my last update so I guess I better update the Status Quo...

I have been thinking a lot about my sleep and how to get it while still having Hot Flashes... (Thank You Chemo and Tamoxifen!) Well, there have been some pretty interesting ideas that have flashed through my mind.

The Bed of nails... Perfect for keeping air flowing under me... preferably with a Fan blowing cool air through it. Not sure Alex would go for this one...

Also properly ventilated, so that the bed is not retaining any of my body heat during any given Hot Flash. Again, a Fan would be a Bonus!

The Bed of Ice! This would be awesome, but probably REALLY messy once it starts melting... so maybe not the most practical idea.
 What I have come up with as the most practical idea for me is to spend my evenings in the basement which currently is around 62-64 degrees.(I might have to come up with something else once summer is in full swing) I stay here until my fingers are so cold I can no longer "Facebook" and then I head upstairs to go to bed. But that is not all... I also stop by the Freezer and grab 2-6 Ice Packs. Depending on the severity of my hot flashes on the given night and then I arrange them so I have one for my head, one for my shoulders at minimum, but often including one for each side of me to cool my arms and ribs, then one under my knees and one at my feet or on my stomach... You would think that such an array of Ice Packs would make it impossible to sleep, but after I tried this once I have slept SOOOO much better! And I stay asleep longer. I will never go back... Until I stop having the hot flashes at least... HAHA!!
I went to my Oncologist this week and she actually said it looked like I was actually pretty far into Menopause, so it is likely that once I get through it, I won't have to do it again! This is fantastic news! I actually can't be happier about that. What it means to me is that if I can survive this stage, then I likely will not have to do it again later in my 40's-60's or whenever "normal" people have this hit. :) Although having learned a few tricks I am thinking that I might be a little better off than some other women who are starting "Cold" Turkey. (hmmm... maybe sleeping with a frozen Turkey??? No... never mind... that is probably a bad idea! ) Then again... maybe I just think I know stuff, and really I don't... this is entirely possible as well.

Now the Million Dollar Question... How am I healing??? It is actually doing better than in the past. I have my left side that is perfect... not any issues what-so-ever. All of my stitches have been removed and I have not needed anything else to help it along. This is wonderful!!! On my Right side (of course the Radiated/Cancer side) it is struggling more. HOWEVER. It is promising! In addition to my normal regimen of Neosporin, gauze and Aloe Lotion I have also added a Magnetic Pulser. Shown Below:
I had at one point had three small holes that needed to be stitched to avoid them turning into one really big hole, and at the same time I began using this pulser and within one week the stitches were able to be removed and I now only have ONE small wound that is not completely healed, but it is close. So... either I am just finally hitting a point that my system is able to heal... or this pulser is doing the trick to push me over the edge into that state of healing, but whatever it is I am grateful! I am loving the Healing that I am getting here. And can't wait until it is 100% Which should be soon if this is any indication. And since I cannot prove that it is NOT the Pulser, I am going to keep it up so that I can make sure I am giving my body every resource to heal that I can.

Lastly... I have signed up for the Race for the Cure again this year! I am excited, but since I have spent the last year in "healing" mode and not doing much in the way of activity I am just going to plan on the 1 mile walk. You can see my Komen Page HERE. I am excited to break out my "Nuke" hats again and feel the sisterhood of the cause. Feel free to join me either in person or in spirit. :) I will be scoping out a new meeting place since they have moved the starting line up near the SLC Library instead of the Energy Solutions Arena. It will be awesome because this year the girls are old enough that we are going to bring them too. It should be crazy, but I think they will love it! At least I hope so!

Well, I am officially REALLY COLD for the moment so I better take advantage of the moment to go and try to get some sleep.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bionic Boobies

Well I am back to my Bionic Boobies. After several months of nursing my skin trying to give my body the best chance to accept the DIEP surgery, we gave up. I made the decision to just take it all out and start over fresh again but this time we won't rely on my bodies ability to heal and accept fat transfer, we will just do simple implants. Because of the months of stitches I lost a quite a bit of skin so we have to stretch the skin once more. Mostly on the right side since it had the hardest time healing and staying healed. So one week ago today I went in for surgery to get my Bionic Boobies. These are the implants that inflate and deflate on a whim with just the addition or subtraction of saline. :) Too bad they aren't comfortable enough and simple enough to inflate and deflate that I could change it multiple times in the day... I could be flat for sleeping, and have boobs for going out, if that was the case.... LOL Once a week or so will have to do so I can have the doc do it for me. :) One other fabulous bonus to my Bionic Boobies is that I don't need a bra.They stay put. The only reason to wear one now is if I care enough to make my chest look even. As it is, my left side looks normal and my right is not really big enough to need a training bra, unless you count the gauze that is covering my wounds. Most of the time I will not be bothering for the time being.
One other thing that happened with this surgery that hadn't happened with any of my prior surgeries was I got extreme bruising! A little bruising was all I ever really got before... nothing to write home about... but this time my right side nearly to my collarbone and down to my belly button is bruised... the worst of it is from my ribcage up, for obvious reasons, but my tummy has that lovely Yellow Hue as well. The doc said that this is because some of the tissue that he had to remove was stuck pretty firmly and took a lot of work to get it out of there. Things got really beat up to get to where I am today. Thankfully the bruises don't hurt to much they are totally livable.
As usual I do not like having the drains in, and luckily I only needed to have 2 in for less than a week. I got the one out of my left side yesterday and he plans to get the one out of my right side on Monday so I just have to live with this one for a few more days. I can't be happier about that. Once this is healed up then I can be more normal for a while. I will just have the occasional visit to change my size. :) So Here comes the fun time of picking my size. :) Who else gets that choice?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ARM-Ageddon


***This post includes MTATM: Medical Terminology According To Melanie. I am not a Doctor and this is not intended to replace any advice from your Doctor***
When I was first told that I would need Lymph node removal I will be honest... I had little to no idea what the heck that even meant. What is a Lymph node? Why does it matter? What is the big deal? It is actually a lot more important that I ever imagined. It is basically what keeps up your immune system. It carries your White Blood Cells and brings all the "stuff" that shouldn't be there to the Lymph node to make your antibodies. So that is why when you start getting a cold or strep then your lymph nodes right under your jaw swell up... they are working overtime. (Yes, I am 34 and I just barely learned that those are Lymph nodes, I have always just called them "glands" but it all make sense to me now) So the average person has anywhere from 20-30 Lymph nodes in and around their arm-pit. Since I had 13 removed I am around half power. So if I injure my hand or arm or if I over work it so then it has a lot of work to do in order to get the fluid up my arm to drain and it has to "wait in a long line" to get through the node and get an antibody. So since it is not getting through fast enough then it just builds up in my arm. Kinda like a traffic jam on the freeway. If you have a road that usually has 4-5 lanes open in rush hour then you make 2-3 of those close because of an accident or construction then everything gets all congested. Same thing with your Lymph System.

Well after a while I started feeling some serious tightness and soreness in my hand and arm and it felt like it was swelling and at some times I felt like my skin and muscles would burst. Well I finally broke down and made an appointment with a Lymphedema specialist. That was the best thing I ever did. I initially thought that it would be a quick appointment of looking and making sure that what I was feeling was actually Lymphedema and then giving me a Rx for a compression sleeve. I was so wrong! In case you are wondering what Lymphedema is here is the Dictionary.com definition:

lymph·e·de·ma

[lim-fi-dee-muh] noun Pathology .
the accumulation of lymph in soft tissue with accompanying swelling, often of the extremities: sometimes caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of lymph channels.
In any case, it was not shocking to me when she told me that I was going to need some therapy for this. But she was extremely happy that I was starting the therapy now while I am still Stage 1 Grade 1 and it is technically "reversible" In my first appointment she taught me how to do "Manual Lymph Drainage" It sounds scarier than it is. I essentially have to do a very light massage (since the lymph is just barely below the skin you don't have to press much in order to effect it) and clear out all of the lymph system that is just below my collar bone as well as down my side so that I can push the fluid to fully functioning nodes in my left arm-pit and in my groin so that it will drain more efficiently. After just one massage I felt so much better it was incredible! Now I have to do this each day to maintain this feeling, and I just got my Compression sleeve and gauntlet (half glove) to use while I am more active and at the end of the day when my hand and arm feels so tired and swollen.
I saw a blog post that has a video that kind of explains the process (except she is using a brush to do this, and I may go ahead and adapt to this as well eventually) If you are interested you can check it out at: Skin Brushing. It seems like it could have benefits to anyone who may have a compromised immune system for whatever reason.  
So my battle with my arm has begun, and I like to think that I got enough of a head start on it that I am winning so far. I have seen some pretty nasty pictures of serious cases of Lymphedema and I definitely want to stay away from that. So far only a really close measurement would make my swelling noticeable most of the time.   

One more benefit to going to this specialist is that she is also in Physical Therapy and she is helping me get the movement back in my arm. I have a tendon "cord" that is over 10 cm long from my surgery and it limits my current range of motion and we have done 2 treatments and I have an exercise regime to help and I am definitely noticing the difference! It is wonderful. I knew it was not great, but even increasing the little bit that I have already is a fabulous thing.   
On another note: My body has essentially rejected my DIEP and I am "starting over" in March. So I will have a surgery to remove anything that is not "perfect" and then put back in the Expander's that I Loved so much before. Then once I can get healed from that I can have a more permanent implant put in then it will be Lypo then fat injections. Oh Goodie! But at least it is getting going. My Doc would schedule the surgery within the next 2 weeks, but I need to have time to make some schedule adjustments and get work off so I am pushing it back until I can get things set up and ready. It just means I have my weekly stitches until I go in, and I should totally be the person keeping Johnson & Johnson first aid products in business. But it is something that I can definitely deal with... It is just an inconvenience. At least I am not getting infections or having pain or other issues that could accompany this.