Thursday, December 30, 2010

The end of the year

Here it is, the end of 2010.  I thought this was going to be "my year".  I have a great job, the best friends in the world, and I was enjoying life.

Then, I found that one lump.  I cannot say enough how important it is for every woman out there to do your self breast exams and to have your mammograms.  Thank God I did all three and have since had a double mastectomy and will soon start chemotherapy then complete with radiation therapy.

I cannot say thank you to all of my friends and family for standing beside me in this tough time.  Thanks just doesn't seem like enough. 

I went to the doctor today and had my expanders filled again.  My best friend took me to the doctor and asked if when I went in, did I say "filler up"?  All any of us could do is laugh.  She gave me a belated Christmas card today that says on the front cover "All I want for Christmas is my two front teats".  Only Pam.

My friend, Frank, came over for a vist today, too.  It was great to catch up with him and hear him regale us with stories of his mother.  All we could do was laugh!  Thanks Frank, I needed that!

I will be starting chemo on Jan 10 and will be having adriamycin and cytoxan for the first 4 cycles, which will be every 2 weeks, then I will start weekly therapy with Taxol for 12 weeks.  I will then have external beam radiation therapy after that to make sure all those damn cancer cells are dead, dead, dead!  Then we can talk finishing reconstruction!

For all of those following this, thanks for your time.  Thanks for the prayers.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I wish nothing but the best for the coming year for you and your families. 

2011 is going to be MY YEAR!!!!!!

Love to all and FEEL YOUR BOOBIES,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Well, here it is, just a few days before we celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ.  I have asked for a couple of material things from my parents, but I received the best gift I never wanted.  That was to be surgically free from cancer!

I am soooo thankful for the physicians, nurses, radiology techs, and office staff of all those who have taken such a large part of my care.

Last Thursday, Mom and I went to "chemo class".  This was to let me and her know what to expect during chemotherapy.  With the development of medications, nausea and vomiting should be diminished
The medication combination that is most often used and probably will be used on me is called adriamycin and cytoxin.  Unfortunately, the downside to this combo is that I will most likely lose my hair.  I decided that if I did need chemo, I was going to have a head shaving party!  We have parties for all sorts of things, why not have one if you're going to lose your hair, right?

I've been asked if I was going to wear a wig.  And I don't have an answer for that.  There are lots of scarves, kerchiefs and the like, I'll probably go with something like that.

I would like to give a loud shout out to Bonnie.  Girl, you make me smile when I think of all the "pixie dust" you left in my house when you and Bridgette visited!  I have reminders of your visit everytime I walk in the kitchen in my socks!

Mom, Kenneth, Dad and Pam, you 4 are my rock.  Thanks will never be enough to repay everything you have done for me.

Finally, for all those that actually read this, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.


Merry Christmas,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Week Post Op

Today is one week WITHOUT CANCER!!!!!!!!!  Yeah!!!!!!  Today also marked my first trip to the mall since before surgery.  Mom needed to go to the mall and I went along, just to get out of the house. I've got a bad case of cabin fever!  By the time we got thru Sears and found NOTHING she needed, we deciced to lunch at Chick-Fila.  While standing in line to get my lunch, a friend from high school saw me.  She saw the pain pump bag I was wearing and asked if it was Chemo.  I told her no, just pain meds and laughed.  She  told me SHE has breast cancer and was one week post op from a sentinel node biopsy and port placement.  She showed me her port and I showed her mine.  A grown up version of Show and Tell! 

I told her I had the double mastectomy one week ago and she lit up and said it was my fault she was starving and wasting away to nothing.  She was scheduled to be the second case that day and the complications from my surgery delayed her surgery by a couple of hours.  All we could do was laugh at the whole thing.

We exchanged information and found we have the same medical oncologist and the same surgeon!  What a small world.

I did have a one week follow up with the plastic surgeon and she was very pleased with the looks ofeverything.  She said she wanted to start filling my expanders today with 30 cc's in each, but changed her mind and put 60 cc's in each.  I'm on my way to PERKY!!!!!!!  The pain pump came out, so that's down to 3 tubes left in, then the other surgeon's nurse came in and took out one of the drains under my right arm, so I'm down to 2 tubes.  What a difference that makes.

Since it's been such a long, productive day, I'm off to relax and not do anything for the rest of the night!

Love and Hugs to all

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 2 after surgery

Saturday morning, day 2 post-op.  I'm a little sore, a little stiff and still sound like I have a frog in my throat.  My 4 hour surgery turned into about 6 hours. 

I had a 3rd malignant lesion that was growing into the backside of the nipple, so that's gone, but the rest of the cancer is gone as well.  The surgeon did place a medi-port (an IV access in the upper chest wall) for chemotherapy that will begin after the new year.  I don't know yet if I'll need  radiation therapy. 

My parents are in disbelief.  Mom's terrified and so is Dad, but he won't talk to anyone about what's going on with me.  I guess it's true that at 42 years old, I am still their baby girl. 

The Medical Oncologist did what's called BRAC Analysis, a blood test that shows any predisposition for other types of cancer, including ovarian and colon cancers.  That came back negative, thank God for that.

The next few days are going to be a challenge in getting back and forth to doctor appointments, I have 2 on Monday.  One with the cosmetic surgeon's nurse for a dressing change and one at the cancer center to have my port accessed and to draw blood.  Looks like I'll be busy for a while anyway.

I think it's time to relax a bit more and take a nap!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Surgery Day

Today is the day I have been looking forward to.  It's 2:30 AM and I cannot sleep anymore.  I am a bit surprised that I slept as much as I did, but that's thanks to my medicine to help with my insomina issues.  I have to be at the hospital at 4:30 AM for admission.  I am scheduled for a 24 hour stay.

Yesterday, I went to the plastic surgeon so she could do her marking for the reconstruction she's going to do and I was injected with the radioactive material so the surgeon can monitor my lymph nodes to make sure there is no cancer there. 

Someone asked me if I'm ok..... I told them I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and tried to laugh about it.  As I've said before, I am not a patient patient.

My co-workers made me cry at lunch yesterday with a card and presents.  I usually am a little more composed, but this was an exception to the rules.  Thanks to all, you really made my day and yes I'll call when I can.

This whole experience has been surreal.  The time of diagnosis on 10-26-10 to now has been a blur.  Doctor visits, the possibility of external beam radiation and oral vs. intravenous chemotherapy, lumpectomy that had to be cancelled in light of finding more disease, and now, double mastectomy has taken a toll on my emotions.  I haven't looked at myself since having the marking done.  I just cannot make myself do it. 

There has been one more bright ray of light since all this has begun.  My mom's oldest sister who has fought and won (so far) her fight with breast cancer, made a couple of heart shaped pillows and took them to my surgeon's office for her to give to me with a note to let me know she's thinking of me and wanted to do something to help.  Wow.  She hasn't spoken to anyone in the family in a while, but she actually reached out to me.  Something good is happening here. 

I'll let everyone know what's going on in a few days.  Please keep me and my family in your prayers. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

5 Days to go

So now I'm getting nervous.  Surgery is scheduled for Thursday, December 2.  I am scheduled to be the first case of the day, "tentatively", at 7:30 AM.  That means I have to be at the hospital at 5 AM.  Not quite the 5:00 I like to see, but then, I'm getting rid of the cancer that has invaded my body.

My family and friends have been incredibly supportive in my decision to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction.  In talking with the plastic surgeon, she said that the type of cancer I have has a high recurrence rate to the opposite breast.  What's a girl to do?  I can't have one perky and one saggy, now can I?

I found out my aunt that lives in Arizona had a cancer scare last year.  We talked quite a while on Thanksgiving Day.  She totally understands me.  We pretty much grew up together when I was little.  She lived with me and my parents after I was born, so we got to be friends and did a lot together after she came home from Alabama many years ago.

She had a biopsy and it came back benign, much to the surprise of the doctors and her.  She's been fine since, but she's keeping up with her mammograms and breast exams.

If there is one thing that this has taught me, it's feel your boobies.  Only you know what is normal or not for your body.  If you find something that is not normal, CALL YOUR DOCTOR.  It could be nothing or it could be cancer. 

I have so many things running thru my pea-brain.  I need some WD-40 on the hamster wheel. (I totally stole that from my BFF!)  If it weren't for my sleeping medicine, I don't think I could sleep.  I keep worrying about things that I probably shouldn't, but I can't help it.  Doing this blog actually helps me to get those thoughts out of my head and quiets the wheel for a little while. 

I know I'm going to be in the hospital for at least one night, just because of the fact that I am having mastectomy and the risks of bleeding, infection, blah, blah, blah.  The thing I'm fearing the most is PAIN.  I have never done well with pain and pain meds make me feel out of control.  If any of you know me, you know how much I don't like to be out of control. I know I'll be ok and all I have to do is ask and I'll get what I need to make me comfortable, but it's the unknown.

Please keep me me in your thoughts and prayers.  I can feel the love!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A great weekend was had by all

I went to the dance convention and had a BLAST!!!!!  I also had a major meltdown Friday night.  After the phone call with the surgeon, I showered and dressed for the evening dance, and thought I might as well fix myself a drink. After I got ready, I headed down to the pavillion to meet up with my best friend and told her about the phone call from the doctor.  I was ready to party!  I partied myself into a stupor and was out like a light before 11 pm.  I missed the dancing and getting to meet new people that night, but I think it was time that I finally gave into the fear and anger that I had been feeling.  When I got up the next morning, Pam was still sleeping, so I went downstairs for breakfast and just sat and read the newspaper, enjoying the morning.

I went to an early workshop and had a blast.  I did a couple of more workshops and just had a grand time!  I think the best part of the whole weekend was learning that I am NOT the only newcomer in this area for West Coast Swing!

Now I am going to see the plastic surgeon on the 23rd and see what I'm in for.  I would really prefer to do the double mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time.  But..... we'll see what she says.

Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers!  They are much appreciated!

Hugs and lots of love!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No surgery on Nov. 16th

So, things were going so good on Friday. I was at the convention, spending time with my BFF and learning more and more about West Coast Swing dancing.  Laughing, making new friends and just generally having a great time.

Then I got another message that I needed to call the surgeon's office as soon as possible.  When I finally got in touch with the nurse at 315 pm, I was told the surgeon wanted yet another ultrasound because another nodule was found in my right breast.  Since I was in St. Petersburg, there was no way I could get back to Lakeland before they close at 4, but the nurse said she would talk to the doctor and call me later in the day, probably after 5 pm.  I said that I would be expecting her call.

At about 630, I got a call from the surgeon herself to explain what was found on the MRI and the ultrasound.  I seems I have more disease in the breast than originally thought.  To do a lumpectomy, she would have to take about a third of my breast and she couldn't guarantee how it would look after such a large excision.  I then broached the subject of, not only one, but a double mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time.  Of course that means delaying surgery, but it also means getting rid of the cancer.  Now, I'll see a plastic surgeon for the reconstruction procedure and have surgery in December. 

Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The week before surgery

Well, here it is.  Five days before I have surgery to remove the lump in my right breast.  I am a jumble of nerves.  I don't know whether I'm coming or going.  I was so distracted today, I drove almost an hour out of the way to get to St. Pete Beach for the Dance Weekend. 

My Mom and I struck out at 7:30 this morning for the first appointment of the day with the radiation oncologist.  I was there with her until almost 10:30.  My next appointment was to have an ultrasound of the right breast and axilla at 11:30.  Mom and I figured we'd go and wait if need be, I just didn't want to have to wait around somewhere else.  Fortunately for me, they were able to get me in early!  Thank goodness for that.  My next appointment wasn't til1:00 pm, so we went to lunch and just sat and chatted over a burger and fries and cherry cokes.  That is a treat for both of us.  When I finally got to see the medical oncologist, she talked so fast, I had a hard time understanding everything she said except for the fact that I will probably need to have some form of chemotherapy.  I don't know if that will be before or after 6 weeks of external beam radiation therapy.

I was hoping to be able to do what's called brachytherapy, a treatment where a catheter is inserted into the tumor bed and radioactive "seeds" are placed directly into the area where the mass was.  Unfortunately for me, the Rad/Onc told me I was too young for brachytherapy.  There are not enough studies done for her to be comfortable doing it, so I guess I will be going "old school" for treatment.

The medical oncologist is recommending some form of chemotherapy at some point in my treatment plan, but that is going to be dependant upon the final pathology report.

It seems I'm back to a hurry up and wait situation.  For now, I'm just gonna "SHUT UP AND DANCE"!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Facing a birthday with cancer

Tomorrow is a big day for me.   It's my 42nd birthday.  I'm happy to have seen another year, yet I am apprensive about the coming year for me.  I have always been somewhat "fearless", as my parents have said.  Now, I am scared out of my mind.  I have been more scattered than normal, I am finding it hard to concentrate on tasks at home and work and am afraid my work performance is suffering. 

I have 3 appointments on Thursday of this week.  The first is with the radiation oncologist at 8 am, then at 1130, I need to have an ultrasound of the right breast and axilla, then I see the medical oncologist at 130 pm.  I guess I am most worried about seeing the medical oncologist because there is a very real possibility that I will need to go on Tamoxifen along with hormone therapy.  The biggest problem is that I had a DVT or deep vein thrombosis, in my left leg 14 years ago and have been told not to take hormone replacement therapy because of the increased risk of developing another blood clot in my legs, arms or lungs.  What a thing to have to face on top of everything!

I'm gonna try to forget about it for today and tomorrow and I'm going to have a great lunch with my high school friends that I have reconnected with thanks to Facebook!  Tomorrow, my Dad is taking me and my Mom out to dinner and the people that can't make it today are coming tomorrow!  I am really looking forward to spending time with the people that mean the most the most to me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The next step

If you have never had a magnetic resonance mammogram, you ain't missing anything.  Not the most comfortable test I've gone through.  Imagine, if you will, wearing a hospital gown, open in the front, lying face down on an MRI table with your breasts dangling into the "cups" while a technician with COLD hands gets you positioned for the test.  Not only are you uncomfortable, you have your shoulders held by the "arms" on each side with your hands by your side.  The goal is to keep absloutely still while this is going on so they don't send you home only to come back another day!  By the time I was done, my back and shoulders felt like knots had been tied in them.  Fortunately, I got through it without having to come back another day.

After I got home from work tonight, I got a phone call from the surgeon's nurse informing me that my case was presented at "tumor board" today and everyone, so far, has agreed with the surgeon's plan of action.  I will see the radiation oncologist, have the ultrasound of my right axilla, AND see the medical oncologist all on November 11.  They are thinking I'm going to need to be on a medication called Tamoxifen for 5 years after the surgery and radiation therapies are done.  The only problem with that is that about 14 years ago, I had a blood clot in my left leg while I was in nursing school.  If they deem it to be necessary, I may have to go on a low dose of a blood thinner called Coumadin for the duration of being on the Tamoxifen. 

As if I wasn't already overwhelmed, I feel like I just had a 20 pound weight added to me and I'm struggling to keep my head above water.

I also asked if a time for my surgery has been set and yes, it had.  I have to be at the Watson Clinic Women's Center at 10 AM for the injection for the Sentinel Node mapping and needle localization.  Those procedures should take about an hour and a half.  Then I need to go to the surgery center to allow the radioactive stuff to circulate and anticipate surgery to be about 2 pm.  They have reserved my OR for about 2 hours.  I think it's gonna be a long and drawn out day.  By the time I get home, I think Mom will probably stay at my house, just to keep an eye on me.  She may even bring the "little doggie" to visit too.  Nothing like a pajama party!

At least for the next few days, things can be as normal as usual.  Then again, nothing in my world is "normal"

Hugs to all

Monday, November 1, 2010

The shock of it all

The day I was diagnosed, my OB/GYN's nurse called me back and told me I have an appointment the very next day with the surgeon.  The one I requested!  Thank you, God for her having an opening to see me.  I was told to get my mammograms, ultrasounds and reports of copied so I could pick them up for the surgeon's visit tomorrow.  I needed tasks to do to keep my mind busy and not worry about the future more than the next thing to do.

I left that Tuesday afternoon, reminding myself to "go get your films", "go get your films".  I got home, I forgot to "go get my films" which is soooo typical of me.  So, I went the next morning on the way to work and "got my films".  All I could do was laugh at myself for forgetting to do something else.

My best friend, Pam had been sick with some kind of upper respiratory bug all weekend and worked, but she did stay home Tuesday night and rested.  She called me Wednesday morning and said she was still going with me to see the surgeon, she had promised to take me and she wasn't going back on a promise.  I told her to stay home, but she's as stubborn as I am.  Thanks Pam.

As my appointment time got closer and closer, the more nervous I got.  I was trying to keep busy to keep my mind occupied and it was helping a lot!  Pam got me at 11:30 and off we went the one block north of where I work to the doctor's office.  Her staff was nothing but understanding and wonderful.  I met the surgeon and she is a wonder!  She talked to me face to face, eye to eye before she even examined me.  Showed me my films and explained everything she was seeing and was worried about.  After examining me, she let me dress and I got to go to "Breast Class".  Everything never wanted to know or were afraid to ask. Nothing was off limits with her.  Even Pam went to class with me to help me remember what was said and done. 

I found out that I have Stage 1 or Stage IIa breast cancer, due to it's size of about 5 centimeters.  It is invasive because it infiltrated outside the lobular tissue into the surrounding tissue.  Can't grade it yet because we don't have final pathology (that's after surgery).  All in all, for breast cancer, this is the one to have!

After we spent about 20 minutes in "class", the doctor's "nurse navigator" came in to help guide me through this long journey.  As it turned out, she has known my family since before I was born. Her in-laws lived across the street from me as I was growing up.  I truly had a village looking after me as a small child.  I considered her and her husband as a third set of grandparents! 

When she came in, both of us started to cry a bit and I wrapped her in a big hug, grateful for having someone I've known my whole life helping me through this.

She got me set up for my MRI of both breasts, and ultrasound of my right axilla (the armpit), an appointment with the radiation oncologist, and a date for surgery.  She did this feat all in ONE DAY!  She is amazing!

So here I am at day 6 of living with cancer.  I am still overwhelmed by information, nerves, questions, and the endless paperwork I need to get filled out and sent in for insurance.  How am I gonna get it all done?

I have found my faith again.  I pray everyday, several times a day.  I thank God for the life he has given me.  I ask for his guidance for the doctors, staff and me to do what is right and ask for His calming spirit to watch over me.  I ask for His strength to get through this journey, one baby step at a time.  I thank Him for putting my only sister back into my life after more than a year.  I know He has a plan for me, I just wish He's let me in on it sometimes!

Well, on Day 8, I have my MRI.  God's gonna have to help keep me calm through that! 

Keep praying.  That's all I can do about now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The dreaded phone call

It was a "normal" Tuesday morning for me at work.... busy getting patients ready to see the doctor, changing dressings, faxing orders to the patients' various home health agencies, ect, ect...... I was "normal" until my cell phone rang while I was sitting at the nurse's station. My co-workers and I were laughing and joking and just enjoying the unusally light morning schedule, then I answered the phone.

I recognized the number on caller ID, it was my OB/GYN's phone.  On the other end was his nurse, informing me that my right breast biopsy results were finally here.  It was......... Mammary Adenocarcinoma, lobular type.  "WHAT????? You mean I have breast cancer??????"  I wrote it down so I could remember exactly what she said, Mammary Adenocarcinoma, lobular type. 

My friend, Val, saw it and picked up the paper and showed it to our clinical co-ordinator.  The next thing I knew, I was in the break room, wondering what I am going to do next. Which doctor to see first, my OB/GYN? A surgeon?  An oncologist?  My primary doctor?  I needed answers to questions and I wanted them NOW!

 I have NEVER been the patient person, I just can't be when it comes to something like Cancer.  But when it comes to cancer, you can't help but be patient. 

Let me go to the beginning of this strange journey.  I was getting ready for work one morning, showering, washing my hair, ya know, all the things we girls go thru to get ready to go to work.  I was lathering up, and since it was time, I went ahead and did my monthly self-breast exam.  I felt something in my right breast, in the 10 o'clock position.  Strange.  Let's try that again, still there.  This was at the end of September. I got to work that morning and told my clinical co-ordinator about finding a lump and she wanted to know if I had called my doctor yet, it was only 7:45 AM, doctor's office not open, I told her. 

About 8:30 that morning I called the doctor and his nurse set me up for a "Diagnostic Mammorgram and Ultrasound" if needed.  The first available appointment wasn't until 2 weeks away.  When I did have the mammogram and ultrasound (I needed it), I was informed by the radiologist that the area was "suspicious" and he recommended biopsy of the area.  He would send the results to my doctor and their office would contact me about setting up the biopsy.

The morning of October 19, 2010, my mother took me for the procedure then brought me home so I could become friends with the ice pack I was given to keep the swelling and bruising down and all was right with the world.

October 26, 2010 is a date which will now live forever in my brain.  BREAST CANCER!