Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmas-time

Christmas 2009....Wasn't so sure I would live to see it, but thank God I am here. My spirit is filled with thanks and amazement as I look around and see the joy in others' eyes - especially the children. Especially my own children - I am so grateful to spend another year with them. Brad and Kyle, I love you more than words can ever express.

I hope parents take the time to teach their children the true meaning of Christ-mas, so they can carry in their hearts with them as adults.

I wish you all the brightest, safest, happiest days ahead as we share our Christmas with those we love. Keeping the Christ in Christmas and wishing you peace and love.

See you in 2010....love to all....and thank you for sharing my unexpected journey with me this year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

Six months ago I received the worst news of my life, and now, here it is just 7 days before Christmas and I'm just so happy, and grateful, to still be here to thoroughly enjoy it. Wow - life is good, huh?

This year, I am so thrilled with the littlest of things and am sitting back and taking it all in as if it were brand new.....I don't want to miss a thing.

Make your Christmas a time filled with special memories that will rest in your heart and soul forever. And don't forget to keep the Christ in Christ-mas.....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Special Note

This morning, I found out that another special someone just found out she has an advanced breast cancer. What I want to say to her is this: "Adrienne, have HOPE!"

There are thousands of women who have come before you in this, and they are fighting a good fight, and you will too.

We are here with you, supporting you, and praying for you.......and I am available, day or night, if you ever need someone to talk to. God be with you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feeling Better

Well, I can tell that my final "third" week is over.

Yesterday, for the first time in SIX MONTHS, I felt "good". I wasn't completely dragging my feet and everything I did didn't exhaust me. I woke up feeling rested. So, aside from still recovering from the surgery with swollen breasts, it was good.

It was definitely a day I relished. Today, I still feel well, but I didn't sleep so good, and I can feel the difference. All in due time......

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feeling tired but better

Well, I went in for a check up yesterday and it seems that everything will start to wind down now. The doctors have done everything they can to kill the beast, the rest is up to God. In other words, as it stands, I am cancer free today and can consider myself a 6-month survivor.

The true test of time is two years. Because my cancer was so aggressive, if it is going to come back it would rear its ugly head within the next 18 months. I will do everything I can do on my end to prevent it.....and then pray. I still believe that although this has been a nightmare for me and my family, it has re-awakened my soul and zest for life.

As for now, I remain exhausted, but hey, like my oncologist said yesterday, "Um, let's see, you've had 4 major surgeries, the flu, AND got hit by a truck.....Don't you think its time for your body to rest???" Duly noted, Ma'am. For the rest of the year, I am committed to letting my body recover....

Wishing you all the happiest of days as you move this beautiful Christmas season.....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Good Lord Knows

Well, as I said in my previous post, the Good Lord knows what he is doing and I'm glad I put all my trust in him because I got a big surprise yesterday at the hospital. In order to prevent an additional surgery in January, my amazing doctors decided to go full speed ahead and remove BOTH expanders and give me my new permanent silicone implants. For Thanksgiving, I've been given the gift of two new "turkey breasts".....lololol... For Christmas, I think I'll pop on a couple bows and think good thoughts!

Now, the next major hurdle is to hope for no rejection of the implants. This is HUGE!! If my body rejects them, they have to take them out for 6 MONTHS - which would be bad. The guy hitting me was a big setback that affected my overall health, but I believe in good things, and so I hope, they shall come to me.

The surgery went well and I now have a smaller, softer, more feminine chest for which I am mighty grateful. I am up and moving around, albeit slowly. This surgery was as complicated, but somewhat less painful than the original bilateral mastectomy. So that and good painkillers keeps me feeling fair.

I wish you all a beautiful and very special Thanksgiving. Do your best to make it memorable ~ we never know what is to come our way...God Bless.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sooner than Expected

Just to let you all know, as I figured, I am now required to have surgery - MUCH earlier than January. It is scheduled for Wednesday. They need to go in and repair all the damage that was done when I was hit by the truck. The bruises turned into "dead zones" by turning black, and finally opened up into holes.....lucky me - I've sprung a leak.

Trying to keep my spirits up and I know the Good Lord knows what he is doing, so I place my trust in HIM that all will be well. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Feeling better

Well, it's Sunday evening, and I'm finally feeling a bit better. At least my strength is returning. Thank goodness! I was starting to get worried! :)

My breast finally sprung the dreaded leak. The bruising from when the guy hit me died and has now opened an area the size of about a dime, maybe a tad smaller. This is bad news. It means that the breast has now been compromised, so when I get up tomorrow, I have to call in to Tampa and my guess is that they will have to do surgery to close it up. In order to close it, they'll have to open it, take out the expander, clean it, and replace it.

All because someone wasn't paying attention when they were driving. Real nice - thanks, bud.

I've been hearing alot about this new recommendation about not getting mammograms until age 50. WTF! Clearly, the people who were in charge of this program have no clue about breast cancer - it is not getting better, it is getting worse, and women are getting it at much younger ages. If I had not had my mammogram when I did, I would not see 46 years old or ever meet my grandchildren. The idea of raising the age limit to 50 is ludicrous. I put that recommendation in the same pile of crap as Suzanne Somers who now chemotherapy does not cure breast cancer.....I have some words for that woman...."Go back to your Malibu barbie house, real women don't need false preachers". Suzanne is being irresponsible and ludicrous; every single day a woman's life is saved via chemotherapy because of breast cancer. Hey Suzanne, here's two more words for you, "Triple Negative" - look it up and get smart.

For any woman reading this who is new to breast cancer, remember the following:
1. Do your homework - don't rely on anyone to tell you everything
2. You will read plenty that you don't want to see - take it in doses and remember the hope
3. Get a second opinion
4. Make sure the doctor you choose is board certified in oncology
5. Choose to live or choose to die - then fight hard!
6. Cancer is aggressive, so you must be aggressive in your treatment.
7. Come out here to find others like yourself - you are NOT alone.
8. It is ok to get mad, cry, laugh, and do it again, over and over and over.
9. It's a hard road to recovery but thousands do it everyday, so can you.
10. Hang in there.
11. Ask questions - lots of them - and don't stop asking - this is YOUR life and it is important that you be kept informed every step of the way.
12. Keep a journal; whether here or in a notebook, takes notes, write down your thoughts, write down questions. Put it all there so when you are ready, you can go back and re-read how far you have come.
13. Don't be afraid to let others help. They really want to, so let them.
14. It's ok to be tired and weary, just remember why God gave you knees - keep him in the equation.....
15. Never listen to Suzanne Somers.

There, I guess that about covers it for now. I had hoped to do a video and post it here this weekend, but my camera wouldn't cover it all.....so now I search for a camera that will take about 8 minutes worth. Basically, I want to explain the above information a little more thoroughly. Hopefully, it will help someone one day.

I hope you all have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving week. As for me and my family, I cherish every single moment that I am here with them and it feels great....Love to all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Day at a Time

Well, it has been one week since my final chemo treatment. I would love to say it has been uneventful, but I'd be lying. In keeping with tradition for 2009, God had other plans for the month of November. He decided to send me one more curve ball by adding in the freaking flu. WT****!!!

As if a dense and final dose of killer chemotherapy was not enough, apparently, he saw fit for me to get the flu and bring me to my knees for the last five days. I honestly don't believe I've ever been more ill in my life. Holy crap....sometimes I wonder what I have done, but it is not for me to ask why.....although in my angry moments I can get pretty pissy. This time around I was too weak to care. Between the chemo, the aching of the breasts, and the flu, nothing really mattered because I was too miserable. Anyway, I'm not whining, just trying to reflect how I've felt this week. There was a point where I nearly just gave up. I had a 103 temp, my body ached, my head hurt, my mouth is raw, and absolutely nothing tasted - at all.....and I was so, so so weak. Man, it sucked big time. My breast is in trouble and I'm doing everything I can to protect it, but the only thing I can really do is hope and wait. It's color is not good and I need 5 more weeks....God, give me just 5 weeks, please....

BUT on the upside, I'm getting back on the road to feeling better. One day out from the fever breaking, thank you Tamiflu and a Z-Pak, and Amoxicillan (yes, they have me on ALL 3) and I hope to regain some strength today so I can return to work tomorrow.

The plan is to have dinner w/friends and see the "New Moon" movie together - for which I will properly prepare myself with a MASK!!! Hey, I should fit right in, huh?

Anyway, as we draw nearer to Thanksgiving, I just want you all to know how grateful I am for having you in my lives, virtual and in person. You have been SO important throughout these past months and your love and support has been amazing. I am monumentally aware of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful support group. I am eternally grateful. I love you all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It is Done

Yesterday, November 12, 2009, I endured what I hope to be my very last chemotherapy. It was rather an emotional day for me, because I know that everything that has been done up to this point is the clear line....It either works, or it doesn't. I believe very strongly that for me, this route I've taken with the assistance of fine doctors and nurses was the best route for my cancer and that I will come out on top as a survivor who can help other women.

As I've said many times before, my faith is stronger than ever and I trust that the Lord will see fit that my journey has many more years to play out. I know how hard this has been on me, and my children, my family, and friends. I thank every single one of you for standing by me, in darkness and in light. Without you, I don't know what I would have done.

There are still more surgeries to go, tests to take and tons of follow ups, all of which I pray will be fine. I will continue to post my story here because even though the chemo has ended my journey continues. And not just for me, but for all women out there who endure this disease, and for those who have lost their lives to it.

I am committed to breast cancer, just as it has committed to me and it HAS changed my life monumentally. Just because I am declared "cancer free" does not mean I will let this go - I will continue to support causes that support breast cancer research and I will write, and I will blog, and I will preach about it. Please be patient with me if I bore you - my goal is to help save lives....God willing, I hope that one day, breast cancer will be defeated.

Today, one day out from my last treatment, I feel hope. I feel ill, but I feel so much hope for the future. Wow - it is a good day!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This is it

So, today I woke up and realized that this trip back to Tampa will be the last one I have to go for chemo purposes.....Tomorrow is my LAST chemotherapy! I am elated. My breast is holding up - literally - ha! So it would appear that I can endure the last round...thank you Jesus....I just don't think I could do this again. It's so hard, so so hard.

To give you an idea, just walking to get the mail is actually a chore - I'm completely exhausted and the mailbox is only across my street. Work, although I love it, drains my body of all energy. I have to rest when I get home. It's almost like full body atrophy....that's the only thing I can think of. I don't think I could do hand to hand combat right now if I had to defend myself, so its a good thing I have a pit bull and weaponry. But this too shall pass.......I believe.... My sister Pam is doing well and she doesn't realize it, but each day that she continues to be well inspires me. Apparently, we have the same exact genes, so she gives me hope...she's a two-year plus Triple negative survivor. Amazing and blessed...
Wish me luck - this is one trip I'm looking forward to putting behind me!

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Day New Music

Friday was a tough day, but I'm holding my own and keeping the faith. This weekend, I heard a new song by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews called "I'm Alive". It is a beautiful song and it reminded me to be grateful for the littlest of things. I am alive......I've posted the video and song here to the right so you can listen to it.

As I think about it, when I first found out I had breast cancer, Miley Cyrus came out with "The Climb" and I couldn't listen to it without crying because I had an idea of drastically my life was to change because my sister Pam had already been through it. Well, I've survived the climb up only to luckily be walking on the down slope with hope. And now, with absolute perfect timing comes "I'm Alive".

Wow, God knew I needed a special message and HE sent it to me. The message of hope I have for everyone today is to listen to the little messages God sends you. Hopefully, it will be something quiet, gentle, and nurturing and you will know that HE is talking to you. I heard him. Lucky me.....

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, I went to Tampa today because my breast has continued to hurt since I was hit in the parking lot. It is very bruised and reddened. After an ultrasound and x-rays, there is real concern of my breast opening up. I have a seroma and two area's (black or bruised spots) that makes everyone crease their eyebrows. Not much they can do at the moment except hope. So, they have put some steri-strips on it to hold it closed and put me back in a compression top. Now, just pray it stays together until after my chemo next week.

Flippin wonderful - this sucks. I was doing well and with one more chemo to go, this could totally ruin my healing schedule. Yep, I'm crazy upset about it and I'm angry. Dammit - that's all I need is another surgery right now because someone wasn't paying attention. I guess, unofficially, I'm now a mess.

The more I write, the more pissed off and depressed I get so I need to try and just let it go tonight. I'm off to read some words of wisdom and faith. I wish everyone a peaceful weekend filled with great reflection and hope. Love to all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fun conversations

Well, yesterday morning, my doctor put me in "isolation" if you will. He told me, go home, go to bed, and stay there for a few days. Your blood counts are way off and your white blood cells are very low at 1.9. Essentially, I have nothing to ward off germs....so here I sit.

I did have to pick up my son at the airport last night and I took his car thinking I was picking up him and his friend that went with him. Well, it took me longer than expected to get there and that was ok because he got to wait on me for a change! HA!

Anyway, while driving, my ex-husband called and there must have been quite a conversation that took place during Kyle's visit because, he and his wife were concerned. We must have talked, and laughed for 30 minutes. He reminded me of old times and expressed their support. It did my heart so much good. For many years we have had what I would consider to be a good relationship. I always loved him, I just couldn't live with him. And his wife, Lori, well she's pretty special, too. He could have done so much worse and if something does go bad with me, I feel safe knowing that she will do whatever she can to hold our family together. This I believe. I think that little trip last night was a special gift from God, reminding me of my past and my present. One thing I thought a bit strange was that he wanted a photo of me - with my bald head. He said it signified my strength. Strength my a** - more like sheer fear and determination to annihilate the enemy within. But I really appreciated his thoughts....hmm, who knows, maybe I'll send them one. Lori and I talked and laughed for awhile as well. She really is a funny woman - and I genuinely appreciate her support. I'm so glad we are friends.

Today....homemade Italiano Rigatoni....yummmm! Already ate some - couldn't take the aroma anymore - HAD to try it. It rocked....

Happy Halloween and love to all! Cheers~

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Slow Week and The Shield

This week has been uneventful thus far. Thank goodness. I praise the day when I no longer have to go a doctor's appointment, or wake up feeling yucky. And sleep.....wow, how I miss a good night's sleep. At times, I feel like these "temporary" breasts can be a bit overrated. They are fully expanded but very hard, so it makes it quite difficult to sleep....but HEY - I am NOT complaining, just conversing!! I am very grateful for where I am right now. First, I am alive, and second, it could be SO much worse - and believe me, I take not one minute for granted.

As I said on my Facebook page, I think that cancer may have been good for me. For the last few years, I think have just been muddling along with no real passion or direction, and it found me. I've never been more passionate in my life than to ensure I live each day to its fullest and to absorb everything that goes on around me and those I care most about. I am also fully aware that my life rests in whatever God's choice is for me and my family. It is my job to believe, and hope, and pray.

I would also like to acknowledge the members of "The Shield", a group (that I also work with) who pays tribute to families of law enforcement. Yesterday, they overwhelmed me with a surprise. They gave me an envelope....of love. Actually, it contained a sum of money from a bake sale. I nearly cried. Not because of the money, which I am grateful for, but what it really represents - their love and friendship. When the chips are down, you learn who are your real friends and who are not. John P, Lisette, Peggy, Ray, Cary, Emily, and the rest of you - I humbly thank you for your true friendship, prayers, and continued support to my family. You amaze me and I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

HOPE Filled Saturday

On October 24, 2009, I walked my first walk as a Breast Cancer Survivor. I gotta tell you, it damn near took me down between the heat and NO WATER, but it was an amazing and uplifting experience. I saw friends there, too, ones that I wish I could have said were not in the crowd of "survivors" being introduced....One by one, every woman came forth and gave her name, her City, and total time she's been a survivor. Together we totaled over 500 years! That's a lot of surviving!!! I believe the kinship I felt as I walked this walk is unparalleled in my life. At the end of the walk I had to sit down for some time - I think I was paralyzed by the heat. I know, I know, I shouldn't have been in the sun and I just had chemo, but this was my chance to walk alongside other women like myself. I carried many with me in spirit yesterday as I walked: My mother, my sister Pam, Dolores, Ann (who just had her surgery), Lori, my cousins, Caroline, Debbie, Meditating Spirit, and Liz's mom.

As tired as I was, a peaceful feeling crept over me. (OK maybe it was just a bit of exhaustion too!) More than 4,000 people walked with me (us) and all that money raised will go to finding a cure. I truly believe that research today may not help me, but it WILL help change the future for women and one day breast cancer will be a thing of the past. This was so huge and I want to live to help bring that change about!

My youngest turns 21 tomorrow....wow....I sure do love my "babies" and I'm so glad they are all grown up and doing well. You make me a very proud mama, boys.....I love you infinitely....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One More Down, One to Go!

I had another round of chemotherapy yesterday and this one was a little tougher. My body is doing its best and fighting hard against this chemical, but the chemical is doing what it is supposed to be doing and as such it knocks me back a bit, so I am just going to hang in there.

On a sad note, I received a couple phone calls this morning, neither of which helped me from yesterday. While sitting in chemo, another man that I've seen there each time was told he was terminal. It was all I could do to keep from crying because I watched the hope fade from his eyes and it deeply saddened me. I just wanted to hug him. I can tell you just from what I myself have been through that hope is the one thing we hold onto. I cannot grasp someone taking that from me. But I saw it in him as he said he wanted to go home. That I understood.

One phone call was to let me know about one of my very special (favorite) volunteers at the PD, Don. A few months ago, he was diagnosed as having a terminal cancer but he's been up and going since, almost as if he were fine, just a little more tired. He even wanted to come back and continue volunteering which we of course would have embraced. He died around 0400 this morning. Again, my heart ached. An absolute joy of a person that I adored. And his wife, well they were best friends for many many years and they have grown children. Today, I write for him. I will miss you my friend. Thank you for sharing your family and your friendship. Via Condios.

The other call was because a co-worker's wife who had been ill for some time had also passed. In her case, I think it was divine intervention. That family has endured great heartache throughout her illness. But, it does not take away from the fact that it was a woman, a wife, a mother, a loved person, who will be greatly missed by many. May she too rest in peace.

And finally, a little 7 year old girl named Somer Thompson was abducted from Orange County, FL and found of all places, in a landfill. What kind of a monster take the life of an innocent child? This is just so wrong on so many levels. The scary part is that many little girls and young women have gone missing here in the last few years, none with good turnouts.

As you can probably tell, my heart is a little heavy today, but I know that God is in charge here, not me. It is my position to trust in him, whatever it is, and just let God do his job. Therefore, I must believe that these men, this woman, and this child are now being carefully held in HIS arms and will have an eternal future in heaven. This is what I hope. Have a blessed day and be thankful for each moment you have.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back to Work

Well, it was back to work again today - thank goodness! :) I will go in tomorrow as well but have to gear up for my next chemo treatment on Wednesday. I do understand why these are so dreaded. Aside from the obvious discomfort, having deadly chemicals put into your body to kill bad cells, and good, and know that you are going to get ill, is no fun. But somehow, I continue to push forward and I am under the 30 day mark now. Nov 12th, 2009 will be my last chemo treatment - thank you Jesus!! I almost feel like a child getting ready to taste ice cream for the first time because I don't want to miss a thing from now on and I feel so alive.....wow...for all the hurt, and the tears, and the fear, there is hope, and while there is hope, I will thrive and survive.

Preaching time: If I haven't said it enough already, let me say it again - please, please ladies, get your annual mammograms!! I can only sit here and write and tell you what I am learning on this journey - and believe me, I don't want YOU to have to experience any of it. Know this, most mammograms will detect a problem, but there are those that miss them, and further, some doctor's will inadvertently misdiagnose, so it is absolutely imperative that you take charge of your health! If you think there "might" be a problem, get a second opinion, or demand more testing. And as I've said before, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! If I hadn't been so tired, I might not have gone to the doc, and not gotten my mammogram - and that would have cost me my beautiful life. Some women, will never have the chance to go back and do that. Google Karen Olga George,and read her story. She died from breast cancer at the tender age of 33. Daughter, wife, mother of two boys.....gone, because of a misdiagnosis. I cried while reading her blog and her husband's entry after she passed.

If my passion to promote breast cancer awareness is to continue, I have to start somewhere, so it starts here, with me, and YOU. When I'm out, I am constantly aware of others looking at me, and I don't run, I smile and say hello. I want it to open that line of communication - because that's what it is all about. Communication, education, and technology... More than 100,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and next year, and the next year -that is A LOT of women!!! And way too many of them will die. Another 1,000 diagnoses will be men and a lot of them will die as well. The environment we live in won't change anytime soon, so we need to ensure that we change our attitudes so that we can live and we help be the change for future generations. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to make a difference, even if it is just a tiny one... baby steps lead to walking... love to all

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm back!

Good morning everyone. Well, I'm finally going to go back to work. Last week was a real zinger and it really knocked me back a few steps. Aside from the physical ailments of a concussion and several muscle spasms along w/cervical and hip sprains, I think it got me emotionally, too. Might I recommend NEVER getting hit by a GMC truck - it hurts like hell.

I did find myself in tears a few times but I am going to be ok. It was just several things, the cancer, the hit by a car thing, my battery going dead in my car, etc., a list of things that just overwhelmed me. BUT, I'm getting back to what can be considered normal - at least mentally....if that's possible...lol.

I'm still sore and bruised from the hit, but I feel a little stronger. I came in to work today knowing that that will help me feel better too. I do love my job, that's for sure. And I need to psyche myself up for next week's chemo session....

Anyway, thanks so much for all of your support. You continue to lift me up - especially when I have those down moments. I am eternally grateful.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ever feel like you've been hit by a truck?

OK, me too - only I was.....Yesterday, I was walking through our parking lot at the Police Department and *poof* out of what seemed like nowhere, I was picking myself up off the concrete. As I walking, a GMC or Suburban, or something like that, backed out of his parking place and knocked me on my keester.....I think I actually saw stars. I was talking to another employee on the phone one minute, and the next, I was flying sideways.

Needless to say, I had to go to the ER. And today I feel like I've been hit by a truck! Everything hurts; my neck, my hip, my back, my elbows, my port and boobs... geesh.... I still can't believe it, it was just so surreal.

Anyway, I had immediate support from the Department, Fire/EMS, and the ER and I just wanted to publicly thank everyone for rushing to my aid. Personally, I'm kind of like a cat that when injured, and not wanting attention, I prefer to flee to lick my wounds, but thanks to everyone who was there, I obtained immediate medical care and I'm very, very grateful. So, thank you MPD and MFD, as always, you go above and beyond to help those in need.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making Strides

Good morning everyone. The last few days have been uneventful with the exception of some sickness that just goes along with the chemo treatments. I don't focus too much on that here because I truly believe that every person handles chemo differently and as such, I don't want to frighten or mislead anyone into thinking you won't get sick. I would like to think I'm a tough cookie pushing through this. I am committed to kicking its ass, not the other way around. 'Nough said.

Now, to my next little mission. On October 24th, 2009, I will walk in Brevard County's "Making Strides" Breast Cancer walk in Viera. Why is this such a big deal? It's my first walk - as a survivor. I will do this not just for myself, but for my sister, my mother, my cousins, and every other woman who has been affected by this horrible disease. My team's name is "Barry's Angels" - and we represent Barry University, where I attained my Bachelor's Degree. These are awesome women who have all been affected by breast cancer.

I've committed to donating/raising $100.....will you help me attain that by supporting me w/a $1 donation? If you can't, I understand, but having gone through this, I now know so much more than I ever thought I would. It's expensive, it kills, mammograms save lives (I'm a poster child for that!), and it is a sisterhood like no other.

Wishing you all a beautiful day....and as Mother Teresa once said, "I know that God will not give me anything more than I can handle, but I just wish he didn't trust me so much"......

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One ll More Chemo Down

I had a chemotherapy port placed in my chest early this morning and after a brief recovery, I was sent upstairs for the next scary injection of chemotherapy. I go ta copy of the paperwork of my meds so that when I describe it in another blog here, I can do it corectly.

Although I was given something to relax me, or at least keep my blood pressure down (lol), I was awake for the import. It was uncomfortable, but that is because throughout this ordeal, I've gained a fear of doctors and needles. In other words, I've become a big sissy....go figure. BUT, I still believe I have the best docs and nurses around. Anyway, Dr. Andrews, cut an incision, numbed me, created a "pocket" and put in this lovely little port that will serve as an access point throughout the rest of this ordeal, thus saving what's left of my veins. He stitched the insider first, then glued the outside. I should note that this cancer did not destroy my veins, they've always been tiny and shy making it hard for needles. Almost always a butterfly is used. Anyway, the port can be there for up to 5 years if necessary, but as Dr. Andrews said, "Whenever you have a foreign object in your body, you run the risk of infections." Noted sir. They did a good job, but now I am quite sore this evening. The other part of the port is the cut into a large vein near the clavicle. Yeah, Jeff, the other doc, said he could drive a truck through it - nice. Cut and paste babe, cut and paste - and get out of there. That was all that ran through my mind.

The chemo is already starting to drain me, and on the way home, I picked up my bible and read a special passage. Why was it special you might ask? Because my friend Maureen gave me the small English version bible (better reading) that I can carry in my purse, and my other friend Lilly recommended a passage. Psalms 103. When she did, I told her that I usually just open it and ask God to talk to me. Funny, the EXACT page I opened to was Psalms 103. Out of alllllll the pages in the bible..... think there's a message there. I think so.

My friend Pat, who took me over for my treatment was able to come in to the area and sit and watch what goes on. Even she agrees that it gives you a different perspective from what you think may be going on - and you get to see it up close.
Pat has had her own share of what I'll call medical moments, so she has that special respect for both patients and doctors. I so appreciate her taking her valuable time to help me. Thank you Pat - you are the best!!

Another special moment was seeing Dr. Perez, my surgeon. Just a super Doc! I get teary eyed when I see him, because I know it was through his hands that the cancer was removed from my body. As he walked away, I noticed Bev (nurse) in the hallway and guess what - she had her Fight Like a Girl t-shirt on! I thought that was just too cool. Hopefully, it gives other women who come in there that extra "oomph" to get up, dress up and show up. My first promise to myself was just that, and I'm still trying to keep that promise. Lord, please give me strength.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tins and an old friend

A friend and co-worker (volunteer) where I work, showed up at my office with a big, pretty tin. Inside was several items that she clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about and finding. I want to share them here because she had no idea that on that morning, I was feeling so very, very low. When I opened the tin, my spirits were lifted, I needed that moment more than I would have thought. She gave me several beautiful books - even "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pauch; a Tetris game; a dream catcher; an eye mask (to shut the world out); an awesome little teddy bear who plays music and his wings move; ginger snaps, and many more amazing gifts. I was overwhelmed at that very moment, and so appreciative. Thank you, Harriet, you never cease to amaze me and your kindness will be remembered always.

Thank you, Jesus for sending me all the beautiful angels in my life.

Well, that is it. As of midnight last night, I said goodbye to the last of my lifelong friend, my hair. It sheltered me from the cold, put up with kids and hair dyes, and even got me a few dates through the years! ha....Adios Amiga....

Last night, Kyle, Rosie, and I stood in the bathroom and they shaved the rest of it off. I could no longer take the aching associated with the effects of the chemo on what was left of my hair. It constantly felt like someone was pulling it out piece by piece at the root. Additionally, it was falling out so fast that I was finding it on the floor, on my pillow, and on my clothes - everywhere! And it itched as it dropped down my shirts.....so off with it!! I'm not even remotely excited about the "new do" but at least it will grow back one day and until then, I hope to be able to rest at night without that aching feeling. Physics - shall we discuss that for a moment? You are so wonderful to offer the kind words, and I know it will grow back, but you may look at it and think, its only a few months, but for me personally, I can tell you already that each day feels like a month.

Today, I was educated in what it felt like to be "different". Some people looked at me and smiled, while others looked and quickly turned away as if thinking, "If I don't look at her, it/she doesn't exist". It being the cancer of course. I intentionally wore my "Fight Like a Girl" shirt today because I had on a pink turban. I had no idea how many eyes were on me until one older woman said, "I love pink, its very flattering". As I thanked her, I looked around and yep, sure enough, others were staring, but they would not meet my gaze. And so I looked down, and away.... I would like to think that it was because people don't know what to do or say, and as they turned away, I caught myself looking down - as if I were not good enough........Uh, what?? Hello, not happening, at least not a second time. Not because it was me, but because when I am out there, I need to serve as.....I don't know - an Ambassador or something for women with breast cancer. People need to be educated. Ladies get your mammograms! Take control of YOUR situation and your life.

I have found so many things that need to be addressed. First, cancer affects everyone around the cancer patient; at home, at work, in public. Why is it that insurance companies pay for non-vital things such as Viagra, yet they don't play fair with vital follow on care and reconstruction a woman needs after having a mastectomy. Medicaid may pay for basic reconstruction, but not symmetry so the breasts are somewhat similar. Although the Women's Rights and Cancer Act of 1997 made coverage mandatory, many insurance companies still fight charges. And every single day, when a woman is fighting with her insurance company to help her cover expenses that should be a given, she should actually be resting and taking care of her body. I can tell you without hesitation that mastectomy's are very traumatic. According to Dr. Richard Dowden, Cleveland, OH, states on his webpage, "You must be aware that many insurance companies try to get out of coverage for that situation any way they can, usually by tricky wording in the contract or by blatlantly disregarding the AMA guidelines. And even if they do assist with the costs, the insurer will not likely help with the expense of putting new implants in." (http://dr-dowden.com/faqs/implinsu.html)

For centuries, women have been raised to take pride in their appearance, and nurse their babies at their breast, yet, when a horrible disease like breast cancer strikes, the answer is "We're sorry, we can't help you". Someone needs to take a stand to help others who follow behind us. Doctors and nurses are diligently doing what they can to help, but patients need another voice - yours, mine, and so many more. I hope that each of you reading this will consider taking the time to write your insurance companies, Senators and Congressmen. Petition them to bring this issue to light and to change the laws. That way, our daughters, and their daughters, and their daughters, will never be left feeling like they are only half of a woman.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Filled UP!

I returned to Tampa VA today for the doc to check my current "fill" status and review the "girls" to ensure there is no infection going on. According to Dr. Carter, everything looks good! ~ Yay for me ~ So you know what that meant, right? Another fill, although I wasn't quite sure where he could possibly put it!?! Well, let me tell ya - there was room, and Dr. Carter was able to put one full needle in the left side and almost two in the right....oh my gosh, I have these monster boobs right now....sorry, but they are enormous to me....lol! Now, I gotta figure out what I'm going to hold them in - I don't think ANY of my bra's will contain them at this point.....

Oh my! I'm often reminded of just how very lucky I am. I ran into another woman who goes there and is almost finished with her reconstruction. She, like myself, has been pleased with the surgeries and treatment. I also met another woman, a new friend, and as we stood around talking waiting on our appointments, she filled me in on how they repaired her nipple area's....I was amazed, albeit fascinated - can't wait for more needles! ha~ Anyway, get this, she grabs my arm and says "You gotta see'em!" so we went into the restroom, and see'em I did...they look great! You couldn't even tell they weren't "real"....wow, I have hope! (Had that anyway, but now I have a better visual idea). It was all quite surreal, and the truly funny thing is that so many people have touched or seen my own now that my modesty is about gone so I completely understood her when she did that......God works in mysterious ways.....and as for the men in the hallway listening to our conversation? Priceless....

I surprised my favorite nurses today. Leslie, Kelly, and Bev were all in when my sister and I arrived. I gave them their own "Fight Like a Girl!" T-shirts and they all put them on, so I have new pictures posted. My sister had hers on too!! As usual, people continuously stopped us to ask about the shirt, what it meant, where I got them, etc..... These docs and nurses literally saved my life so giving them each a t-shirt is peanuts and no comparison. I can never truly repay them with anything except my eternal gratitude and praise!

Finally, drivers were nuts from Mel to Tampa and worse on the way back. I-4 is a freaking speedway. If you are not doing 85, you are safest in the farthest right lane. And at that speed, they are only 12 feet off your bumper (max).....stupidity never ceases to amaze me....

My spirits are up and I'm feeling good today, even with these bigger rock hard twins.....LOL! For the record, they have to stretch them more than the size I will ultimately become, that way they will look and feel natural..... I know I'm only "halfway there", but halfway is a whole better than where I was just four crazy months ago.

Friday, September 18, 2009

All Kinds of News

"Big" news! On Wednesday, I was lucky enough for the doctor to tell me I can keep the expanders in for now. As a matter of fact, he did a "fill" and put 500 cc of saline in each one and wow - I have CLEAVAGE!!Seriously, they are looking decent. He wants to add more next week as long as the infection stays away. I had no expectation other than to hear Dr. Carter say, "we're taking 'em out, or leaving 'em in". No idea that he would ask me to come downstairs to begin the next step in reconstruction. I was ok until I saw the needles! At first, he took two needles out and said he would numb it - No biggy I thought. That was easy. What was I thinking?? Holy s*** - the next FOUR needles he pulled out scared the bejeezus out of me and I dang near fainted. No lie, each one was about 14 inches long and about 3 inches in diameter. I started to sweat and my eyes blurred - "Hey, Doc - you're not using those are you?" Ahh, but of course he was. I started to cry - everyone wants to zap me with needles nowadays and I have truly gained a real fear of them - especially those big ones! Lucky for me that once he located the correct area of the magnet in the expander, he knew exactly where to inject the mammoth needles. Yippeekiyaa....Each one took about two minutes to inject - he went slow. My chest is a bruised, but thankfully, there are still many area's that remain numb from the original surgery. Guess what - the doc wants to do another fill next week, too...yay, can't wait for THAT trauma.....

As for today, I had the wits scared out of me.

Unfortunately, one of our awesome guys' son was diagnosed with swine flu. "Dad" came to work - as he normally would....but it immediately had me on high alert as soon as I found out. He had no way of knowing that if he is carrying the virus, he could transfer it to me and it could be lethal......scary thought, huh? Cancer patients systems are highly compromised - especially during the second week after a chemo treatment, which I'm in that week...... I sure hope his little boy is going to be ok. Everything I hear about this flu is that it is bad and takes a lot out of everyone it touches. As for me, I'm staying away.....

Other than that, being back at work is great - I really did miss my group - especially the ladies in Admin. They are top shelf....so I brought in tons of chocolate to show some love....lol

This week my energy level is coming in tiny little bursts and I'm enjoying each one of them. It's not much, but I'll take it! My cousin Deb sent me an email, and my aunt who is undergoing her own chemo at 80 years old is still hanging tough. I look at her and know that she is my chemo hero in this mess. If she can do it, so can I and I will continue to smile, as she does, and look to the Lord for faith and guidance, just as she does. Love you Aunt Rose.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to Work

Today, I returned to work for the first time in about two months. It was a long and tiring day, but it was also very refreshing and uplifting. I enjoy where I work and the people I work with - something I think is very important considering so much time is spent "there". I look forward to getting back on my feet and in the midst of things....a sign that this journey is one day closer to becoming a turned page in my book.

Several well-wishers came by and complimented my hair, which is still a bit strange to me, but I'll have it just long enough to get used to it being short. :) So much to catch up on but I am moving much slower now than when I originally left for surgery, so I am determined to ease back into the pace. Health first, and then I will be more efficient in the job.

I received the "It's a Wrap" wrap for my head today. It is a nice chocolate color made for me by Laurie Erickson and her group at "Its a Wrap". The wrap is lovely but what made the whole package so very special was that inside was a card and the card was signed by the ladies who make the scarves at FranceLuxe.com.....how awesome is that? And then, there is a little fairy attached to the end of it as an extra. And to think they do this, at no charge for all women losing their hair to chemo. There is truly divine intervention.....and I will be honored to proudly wear what they have given to me in love and spirit. Thank you, ladies!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Sister-In-Law

I first met my sister-in-law, Penny, when she was eight years old and I went to St. Louis to meet my husband to be(s) family. What a little beauty she was, and still is. I was always so fond of her and wanted to be protect her at all costs, although I can't say I did a great job....Last night, she reminded me of a time I got her in trouble with her mom...My bad..Sorry, Pen...really, really sorry....I was only 19 myself....I still love her, and the rest of my in-laws deeply. They are a wonderful family that I am proud to be a part of.

Anyway, a week ago, we talked and she told me that her husband had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung Cancer. I almost fainted...Not to Penny, please Lord, don't do this to her, she's a GOOD woman. We talked for a long time, and I did my best to encourage her to keep her chin up and believe not only in miracles but medicine. Times have come a long way with how they can treat cancers and other ailments. My heart deeply ached because I knew exactly how she felt - lost, in disbelief, completely numb..... AND she just found out she is going to be a grandmother....before ME!!! What's up with that anyway?? Just kidding (my) boys - take your time.

To round this out, she called last night and said it was a misdiagnosis!! Apparently, Tom has some sort of infection or pneumonia that he will be treated for. I gather that this type of misdiagnosis rarely happens and I was stunned, grateful, and so happy for her. I felt absolute joy for Penny and Tom...I think I cried for 10 minutes after we hung up....to know that they have more precious time together, without interference from this or any disease. Wow, it really made my whole day.

Today has been an odd day for me. I didn't sleep well and got up early to go to the store with my sister. I have to get everything I will need by Tuesday evening for at least a week to protect myself. Still looking to make sure I have what I need. Sure don't need shampoo....lol.....I have been so tired, unlike anything before now. So, I am taking everything slow and easy and I have rested most of the day. There is some swelling and minor aches and pains that I'm dealing with, but I still feel blessed. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 3 after Chemo

Hi all! Well, I am on day three after receiving my first chemotherapy treatment. I have had a bit of indigestion, quite a bit actually, but am hanging on to everything. I will not be able to eat raw or undercooked foods for some time, for obvious reasons that there may be something left on the food that could place my system in harm's way. I have to be careful with everything I do now, including food, touches, exercise, everything....wow...

I am faithfully taking the heavy antibiotics given to me for the return infection in my breasts and this morning I felt a little bit of relief. The redness appears to be going away, and the swelling actually went down. Never thought I'd want to hear that after having them both removed, but thank you, Jesus!! LOLOL

Next week, starting on Wednesday, is my "weak week" - week 2. This is where is the white blood cell count is most compromised, so I will be extra vigilant during each of those weeks of the four sessions I must undergo. After that comes week 3 and I should be feeling pretty good, just enough time for them to zap me again....So what do I have to say about that? Bring it on, I want to live!!!!

I sent Oprah my new haircut picture with my first chemo treatment. Her O magazine has a great article, "You're Stronger Than You Know"....and it just seemed to fit my day and my hopes for myself, to stay strong throughout this journey. So as the minutes ticked by one by one, and I tried not to clock watch by reading her magazine. It helped the two and a half hours go by just a little faster....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Down Three to Go

I had my first chemotherapy treatment today. Of course there were minor setbacks that resulted in delays, but in the end all seemed to go well. We arrived at 0830 but had to go sign some consent forms, etc. Then the blood draws, then the mixing of the chemo "cocktail" as they call it and the IV......Oh how I dislike needles.... But, Libby did great! You can see the pictures of today's events - and my new hair as I am posting them. The duration of the day was spent talking to nurses, a Pharmacist, picking up more meds yet, and watching TV. I tried to relax but what I thought about most was time, each minute that passed seemed like an hour. It took 20 minutes for the Dexamethazone to be administered, then it was switched over to the Cyclophosomide which took an hour, and then on to the mean Docataxel - covered in a green protective film to protect it from light. That also took an hour.

I did get some food on my stomach because my other doctor in reconstruction put me on a heavy dose of antibiotics, as we fear the infection in the left breast has returned. I can only hope and pray that it goes away and holds out for another 89 days.... otherwise everything stops and the expanders will have to come out. I could actually care less about that at the moment, all I know is that I have to get through this chemotherapy....that's the top priority. Please help me pray the infection settles down....

I think the worst (or funniest) photo here is when the IV was going in...holy crap!! It felt like - well, I'm not quite sure I can put it into words....what I can say is that I'm lucky I'm getting a port put in on the 30th....whew - then everything in or out will go through that and not what is left of my little bitty veins.

I took my Oprah magazine I bought. I got it to read the last page - "You're stronger than you know". Well, after today's events, apparently I am (as long as you missed the needle picture). While reading it and trying to keep my mind busy, I found Ellen in it too - she's surely getting closer to being on the cover with the Mighty O.... Two women of great courage, life stories, and the true desire to help others and make them laugh. I'm glad they were part of my "life ordeal" today.

I have to thank my sister Sherry most. She's a champ for sure. The last few days I've been fussier than I thought I was and she tolerated it well. Guess I was a little stressed out about today. Thanks, Sher - I soooooo appreciate all that you and Ferell do for me each and every day....

Friday, September 4, 2009

"We never know how strong we are until being strong is our only choice".

The last four months have been amazing, crazy, uplifting, scary, and full of hope and faith for me. What has been the absolute scariest time of my life has been turned into a gift from all of you.

Whether or not you realize it, your comments to me here have been very inspirational and have helped me to get through each day. There were a few times when I nearly broke down thinking I really might not make it, but I would block out those thoughts and re-read comment after comment here. And then, I would get down on my knees and pray.

This post is for no other reason than to thank all of you. You truly cannot imagine how alone I have NOT felt knowing you were out here to encourage me. I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart. Know that I remain strong and vigilant in this life mission and I am determined to make a full recovery.

I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Scans and Plans

Hello all! I had a "PET" Scan on Monday and yesterday I received the results. First, what exactly is a PET Scan? Its formal name is Positron Emission Tomography and its purpose is to determine the presence and severity of cancers, neurological conditions, and cardiovascular disease. It is currently the most effective way to check for cancer recurrences, and it offers significant advantages over other forms of imaging such as CT or MRI scans in detecting disease in many patients. The risks associated with a PET scan are very minimal as the quantity of radiation is low and the FDG (-Deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-Glucose) degrades quickly so that its usually out of the body before a patient leaves the area.

It was painless, and I owe a beer to the Tech, my new friend, James, who was able to get my vein on the first try....a rarity these days. He put in an IV and then came out with a needle encased in a heavy lead tube!! My eyes about popped out of my head, but James explained that it is to protect him. I completely understand because in order for him to be helpful as part of my "team", he must deal with this radioactive material daily.

My results were negative. What this means is that THERE IS NO CANCER ANYWHERE in my body!!! Oh my, thank you, thank you, Jesus!!! You cannot even begin to imagine my joy at hearing the nurse's words. This was such incredibly good news for my long term recovery. The next milestone is two years. If I go two years without incident, things look good. The next milestone is five years. If nothing at the point, I can expect a good healthy rest of my life.

My chemo and doctors will be changing once again. I have decided to stay under the VA's care for multiple reasons. The first, Dr. Pooja Randham, Oncologist. Her decisions on the type and length of treatment, and my understanding of "why" is clearly acceptable to me. She will treat me with the "TC" version of chemotherapy - and only with four rounds of it. TC is less damaging to my heart and is not known to cause leukemia, as does the AC. If I were to get this particular type of leukemia from taking the AC, it is very bad and would likely be lethal. Check. Next, only four rounds - that means in three months (not six) - by CHRISTMAS - I should be getting my life back, with the exception of the rest of the breast reconstruction. Check, check. Lastly, costs. I had no idea that the costs involved. If I remain in the civilian sector for care, the cost will/can rise to over $100,000, of which 20% (or $20,000) I would be responsible for. If I stay with the VA, it is free to me.....check, check, check. Decision made. My priorities in life have been steadily changing and I want to LIVE my life more than ever and I don't want to live to work to pay this back....I want to be able to help others.

Pooja said it is imperative to begin my chemo treatments immediately - because of that dang triple negative feature. Soooooo, next week on Wednesday, Sep 9th, I will receive my first treatment. After that, only three more to go (every 21 days). They have delayed my return to work until the 14th to give my body a chance to process the first treatment. When I return to work, it will be on the second week - the week I am most susceptible to illness due to my WBC (white blood cell count) so I beg that anyone with a cold or sniffles please keep distance from me. Your colds CAN kill me. But, I would love to visit with you during the third week. ;)

Now, I need to rant for a moment with the last bit of this I'm struggling with. I will still lose the rest of my hair and I know it. I saw a woman yesterday, her hair was maybe 1/4 inch long - and I almost cried right there. My heart dropped to my toes. I am really having a hard time with this part. I still want to be in control and just cut it off, but I know that I am going to look so dreadful that it just takes my breath away. I KNOW it is temporary, and I KNOW I have to do this, and even though I pray hard about it, I'm just sort of stuck in my tracks today. I feel like it is the last bit of my girlishness that I have to hold onto and it really sucks. There, 'nuff said.

But, I guess it is time, so I will ask my friend Kathy if she will cut it for me....not all of it, but most of it. That way, if I cry, she will really "get it". Kathy's sister went through her own experience with breast cancer and Kathy even walked Tampa's 60-mile breast cancer awareness/challenge a couple years ago......Seemed like every week, she was driving north to spend that critical time with her sister.

Anyway, to the right, please note my new friends and team members. I would like to publicly applaud them for their kind, caring, professional demeanor's. My sister and I were having a conversation on the way to Tampa about how I really liked everyone involved in my care, and how lucky I feel to have them. I believe that there are two types of doctors; the ones that are genuinely concerned about the care and wellness of the patient (and it is reflected in how they interact with the patient), and those that are indifferent and matter of factly with little or no "personal" interactions. Well, I can tell you, for me, this IS personal so I want docs who are willing to be personally involved with me. And I know how blessed I have been to have just that kind of care. Well, lo and behold, Sherry and I were getting on an elevator in the VA and noticed a man in a wheelchair with one arm was trying his best to get out of the elevator. We actually had to put our arms out to keep it from closing on him because two residents in training (students) on the elevator would not even look at him, they kept right on with their conversation! THAT is the difference I am talking about. Shame, shame on them. Neither of us could believe it.

OK, time to buy a wig and some scarves.....have a wonderful week and a beautiful Labor Day weekend.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moving Forward

I had a visit with my Oncologist here in Melbourne today. I will be adding his photo to the blog here as part of my "team". We discussed several things and I found that I will need to get the Swine Flu shot when it comes out in October to help protect my compromised system. I won't change my diet, although most foods will taste pretty bad. He just encourages me to eat what I can with the exception of raw or undercooked foods. Good advice there.

I realize that this whole thing sets me back six months (or a year total), but when I really think about it I think, "six months....from what?" My degree? Work? My children? No, I've decided that this is not setting me back, it is helping me take a step forward for the next several years of my life. So taking things a little slower for awhile is okay by me. And all I ask of anyone is patience....and faith.

I also talked to my doc about my thesis for my Master's degree. I asked him that from a physicians standpoint, which would he rather read: Information on Triple Negatives or Breast cancer and how it affects the lives (livelihood) of those it touches? He said he'd rather read about how patients learn to manage their day to day lives (i.e., work, family, homes). Believe me, everything changes and most of it I no longer stress over.

So, here's my charge to all of you....Of those two subjects, what would you rather read about? And if there's anything else you would like to add, please, please, feel free to do so. I don't just want to write any thesis paper, I want to write a GOOD one! Cheers~

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Appointment after Appointment

The last few weeks have consisted of doctor appointment after doctor appointment. Virtually every single day I am off to meet a new specialist who checks another part of me to ensure I can withstand the chemotherapy.

My journey thus far has not been uneventful. I have had the opportunity to meet brilliant people and ask thousands of questions of them - and others online, to educate myself.

My newest doc to join the team is a heart specialist. What a nice guy....ok, what a fine man he is (Peruvian)...and here's a good laugh - I am his youngest patient...woohoo - a good sign for the human race. :) According to the Muaga scan, my heart "number" is 71 and anything over 50 is good. There are only two words for the numbers, good and bad. 51 is equal to 71 is equal to 91 so just because I am above the 50 mark, doesn't mean my heart is better than someone with a score of 55.

My appointment on Monday in Tampa resulted in the drain not being removed. It is still stuck in my side and I hope for it to come out tomorrow, but I won't hold my breath. The idea is to get the fluids/drainage way down. If it keeps giving me a problem, I'll have the expanders removed until after the chemotherapy. I will not screw around with my life just to have nice looking twins. I can have them fixed later. My priority is to get through the next six months - alive and as healthy as I can be.

One more thing I'd like to make special note of. Laurie Erickson has an online scarf and hair ornament site. There are some beautiful scarves and barrettes and other accessories. Laurie also has a program called "It's a Wrap". This program donates a lovely scarf to women with cancer who are/have lost their hair. Isn't this amazing?? Now think of the number of women you think have cancer.....then multiply that by 100 and you will probably be getting close...

She is actually having one made for me and I'm quite grateful. I am just so impressed at how they treat cancer patients that I want to personally acknowledge her right here. Thank you, Laurie!! You can visit her site at: www.franceluxe.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dilated Eyes

Hi everyone!

Yesterday, I had to return to the ER in Tampa. I had a reaction to all the meds they have had me on and my left eye dilated and would not return to normal. It is still not completely back to where it should be, so it is blurry, but it is getting better. Fighting a headache that goes along w/dilated eyes, but it is going away as all the meds wear off.

I stopped taking all pain medications because of this, so I get to feel every little pinch or ping from Monday's surgery and I must admit that I believe my threshold for pain has been steadily rising.....positive thoughts, positive thoughts....

Today I'm still nauseated, but I'm sure that is due to the heavy antibiotics I am on. I will say that I am very pleased thus far with Monday's surgery. The scar lines will be much better as Dr. Albear did a fine job tightening up the area's of concern.

Anyway, this morning, I had to go in for what is called a "MUAGA" (sounds like mugga). After the nurse destroyed a couple more of my veins, they finally got a butterfly in, drew blood, spun it w/radioactive stuff and put it back in me. (Doesn't this sound fun??) I then had a machine placed closely to my side and above me that took 20 total minutes of pictures of my heart. The MUAGA is designed to provide the doctors a baseline and tell them how strong your heart is (to ensure you can take the killer chemo they want to administer). It was tolerable, but since the procedure, I've had a bit of heartburn and am feeling tired, which is unusual for me....oh well, small cost for big news I guess.

Oh, I can't wait until my days no longer revolve around doctor's offices and people poking me with needles. Within the next week or two, a port (for the chemo) will be inserted into my chest and all blood and drugs will be put in/out through that, so from that angle there is light......

Wishing you all a special weekend and hoping you take the time to really enjoy everything around you.....because I have learned that everything can change in a New York minute...now, go out and laugh, smile, dance, be silly - whatever makes you feel good!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back Home!

Well, yesterday's (Monday, Aug 18th) surgery went pretty well and they let me come home. They opened up both breasts with specific attention to the left side. I had way too much fluid built up and they needed to ensure it was not a major infection. The "stuff" was sent for culture to make the determination. They also removed some fluid from the expander on the left side to give my breast a better chance to heal. They also put in another drain on the left side.....bummer....another new hole...lol Anyway, they were able to leave the expander in for right now and I'm hoping this will clear up very quickly because I was really hurting both before and after the surgery. BUT, it also gave Dr. Albear the opportunity to make a better closing on both sides - which I understand scarring will be more minimized (I think).

Back on pain medication for a little bit. Geesh, I know I'm going to get through this but I hate taking antibiotics and painkillers as my stomach is now always upset.

This time I will return to get the drain out on Monday (instead of two weeks) and then back over there again on Wednesday to have them recheck everything. I'm back to no driving until further notice, which means I may miss my first night of class for this next semester. That's the pits because I want to get through this one last class....maybe my awesome son will take me.....I hope, I hope, I hope....

Friday, August 14, 2009

Actual Information

Well, today I had an appointment with my new Oncologist, Dr. Hoang, (I switched as my Tampa doc recommended a "Board Certified Oncologist") and I really got along well with him. He was kind, compassionate, and very informative.....From the beginning, this is what I learned, and I'm sharing it so that it might help someone else:

When learning a breast cancer exists, doctors look at age of patient, the size of the tumor(s), whether or not it invaded the lymph nodes, estrogen/progesterone positive or negative, grade (1, 2, 3), Her2neu (protein), and whether or not it is invasive (reaching out) or insitu (meaning encapsulated not reaching out). As you can imagine, these results can vary person to person.

As an example - One might be 45 (like me), with a 1.5 cm tumor, N0 (no lymph nodes involved), ER/PR negative, Grade 3 (very aggressive), Her2Neu negative, and invasive. To read it as a doctor puts it, I would be listed as: T1c, N0, Mx, ER/PR (-), Her2neu (-), and IDC (Invasive Ductal Cancer). (Or this is close anyway)

Next, Dr. Hoang explained (Adjuvant)chemotherapy to me (there are 4 generations). The first generation consisted of what is called CMF x6 ( x6 =6 months). The second generation of chemo produced AC x4 (if tumors were over 2 cm). The third one consists of AC x 4 (3 months), and then Taxane x 3 (weekly)(especially if lymph nodes are involved). Finally, the mean ones, the fourth generation. These basically kill your body without killing you and are usually reserved for Stage III and IV patients. They are called FAC, FEC, and FEC + Taxane. My sister Pam, a Stage III Triple negative endured the FEC + Taxane. She was miserable.

As for me: I am a Stage 1, Grade 3 patient; I get only one shot at making all cancer go away; I will do six months of chemotherapy 3/3 * (3 months of AC and 3 months of Taxane); The first three months will be the hardest; It is four rounds; once every three weeks; The last three months (Taxane) are weekly and should be easier on my body.

Now, this should be how my body progresses.
Day 1 - Day 7: First 3-4 days nausea/vomiting/tired :(
Day 8- Day 14: Low blood count - watch for infection (this is the most worrisome)
Day 15 - Day 21: Recovery period - I should feel pretty good. :)

As for tests, he is ordering a PET scan, a MUGA (heart ultrasound to ensure my heart is good - I know it is), and making plans to implant the port.

Wow, is this is a lot of information or what?? Once he laid it all out for me, I was able to better understand where I am at. As for school, he wants my primary focus to be on this care and getting better. It IS the beginning of my future. My chemo will be delayed until the end of September or first of October now due to this Monday's surgery so I am going to do this one last class and hope, hope, hope, for the best. After that, I'm taking a break and holding on for dear life.

I hope that I have explained this so that anyone who reads it can at least gather information and do research on their own in the unfortunate event it touches someone they know.

So, after the doctor's appointment, it was Chyla and Reina's turn. Shots with the Doc. Not good, poor little Reina screamed and of course, I dang near cried. She is such a little prissy...but alas, she was ok after they gave her to my sister.

This evening is closing with me watching Mo'nique in "Phat Girlz" - a good flick, and eating a bit of "Chunky Monkey" ice cream.....because I can....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Changes Every day....

First, I'd like to thank everyone for all the birthday wishes and lovely gifts! I didn't even realize that it was here with everything else going on and *poof* another year has rolled by! The upside is that next year - I'll be ready for it!! :)

Made it back to Tampa to meet w/the Chief of Reconstruction, Dr. Gould, today. I've been having what I thought was a minor issue (redness/swelling) with my left breast. It seemed to start when they took out the drain last week. Dr. Gould was very concerned and almost put me back in the hospital today. At my request, she allowed me to come home and has arranged for me to go back into surgery not later than Monday morning. Apparently, I have quite an infection - hopefully just the skin so they need to clean it all up and they want to close the incision a little better, I guess. So, they will re-work BOTH incisions (left and right). Right now I'm a little down about it (from the pain perspective), but I know that this too shall pass.....with good painkillers - and less morphine....The hope is to do the surgery and get me back home where I can rest.

Each day that goes by is one day closer to my being completely free of this....and that is what I will continue to focus on. Love to all - have a wonderful evening!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Right decision

Well, the last couple of days, I have been getting these awful pains in my chest. I understand that it is normal and that its the nerves trying to "re-fire" up. Dang near makes me jump out of my skin at times. After little sleep the last few days, I finally rested last night and am quite grateful to allow my body to rest. I can't wait till I am over this "exhausted" feeling....whew it's enough to wear anyone down. I'm not as thrilled as everyone else seems to be at how my breasts are healing. I find it hard to look at, but I know its only temporary, so I continue to think positive thoughts.

I am so glad I prayed hard before making my final decision because I did get "some" good news yesterday. I definitely made the right decision to do the bilateral. During the final pathology of my breast material, more cancer was discovered in my right breast where it originated. It was so small that the mammo, MRI and ultrasound missed it and it would have gone unnoticed for some time. Had I just done the lumpectomy, it very well could have been a lethal decision. Leslie (my team leader) made it a point to call me and let me know about it - so one more little miracle to make note of.....

I find that in my quiet time when I can calm my spirit to listen, that is when I hear HIM the best and understand that HE is carrying me more than I ever thought possible. I don't think I could keep a lighter side to all this if not for my faith. I have never been one to push or pull anyone as I believe that we must find the Lord in our own due time.....but if you have never witnessed a miracle, you are in the process of it now. There is no doubt in my mind that I will survive by the grace of God.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Quicker Picker Upper

Well, yesterday was kind of a "quicker picker upper day" - yeah, just like the paper towels. That Nick fella is an amazing young man. The video drew me in and wiped away my tears (cuz my new(er) girls felt like they wanted to explode!). They still seem so swollen but I am sure they will want to put more "stuff" in tomorrow, hence, more sleepless nights. Hey, it's starting to look good on me though! Had my hair trimmed to the shoulders today. It seems that it will stand a better chance of survival if it is shorter. So be it then.

Tomorrow, I go back to Tampa to get these dang drains "ripped" out of my chest - one in each side. I've been quietly praying that just one woman would say, "Hey, don't worry it's not so bad", but generally it seems they get a little pale just talking about it and a cuss word follows....oh yyaayy for me, one more great life experience to make note of and write about. I'll just thank God if I don't clock the Doc!! Just kidding of course - but I will definitely have to have to something in both hands that is firmly in place to prevent reaction.

Hmmnn...sure am missing my co-workers as of late. You all are a great group. For the ladies in Admin: Angie - Chocolate is futile; have a nuts and berries for me, please. Donna - Sure, when I'm better. Mary - please relax, take Jax and Gabby for a walk!! :) And Dee - thank you for handling that, I appreciate it!

Wishing you all a great rest of the week! Don't forget to thank God for all the miracles you are witness to. I see them all around now....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Renewing My Strength

As if one miracle is not enough, one more message bonked me in the head today. It came via Facebook and it deeply touched my very soul. I feel as though my predicament is minimal compared to what this young man has endured all of his life, but I know that God will only give me as much as I can handle. For me, I laid in my bed for the first time last night and was frustrated this morning because it took me 10-15 minutes to be able to sit up (my shoulders hurt immensely), it just doesn't compare.

I wish I could personally thank this young man - Nick - for helping renew my inner strength today. And I thank the good Lord for continuing to lead me.....

I urge everyone to watch this - and remember HIM when you are having a rough day. May we all be blessed with an attitude like this.

You can watch his short video on You Tube at:


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Minor Setback

Well, as things go, I had a minor setback yesterday. It is the one thing you don't want to happen during recovery. Aside from being incredibly exhausted, I started running a fever and thought the new girls would explode. Overnight, it jumped up to 101.5, which is usually an indication that there is an infection or something. I took a Tylenol around 3am as my head was killing me, and by 8am, my temp was back down to 99.7. Thank goodness.

I guess I've probably been doing a little more than I should, but life continues to go on - and so does dust and dogs! :) I am going to look at it as a gentle reminder to take it very easy.

My sister went back home to Virginia yesterday. I'm so glad she was here. She has been through this already and was a great source of information and comfort.

As for today, I will step back and take it easy so as not to upset this delicate healing period.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Get up, Dress up, Show up

Well, after several nights of sleep virtually evading me, I went out and bought a recliner. I have been having a difficult time leaning back or laying down and it's near impossible to sleep standing up!! So, my sister Pam - who flew in from Virginia and surprised the daylights out of me - drove the Vette (that's a whole other story) and went with me to Lazy Boy and and I got a great deal on a rocker recliner with heat and massage. It will be my short term bed as of tomorrow. BUT, I'm sure it will serve its purpose for many more years to come.

After returning home, Leslie and Lisette (from work) came to visit and brought me this beautiful plant of Rosemary. Not only was it an awesome gesture (Rosemary is for healing) but attached to it is a great deal of little pink ribbons with the signatures of people I work with. This overwhelmed me - and if any of you are reading this, please know that you made my entire day (short of the massage on the recliner) :) Seriously though, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to stop in and do that. In addition to the plant, Lisette made a purple frame with a note posted in it from MPD. Wow. As I've said many times, I feel privileged to work with these good people - these wonderful men and women doing an amazing job.

I think Leslie and Lisette were a bit surprised to see me up and moving around. But as I promised myself, I will get up, dress up, and show up throughout this. I have to. I will laugh more than I will cry and I will survive. I will not allow this to define or confine me, with the exception of my current best friend - the compression top (looks like a tube top). But getting up, dressing up, and showing up requires a great deal of effort so although it's not even dark outside, I'm completely exhausted..... :)

Yesterday, the doc said that although the final results were not in, it appeared that they will stage me at a Stage 1 or 2 - and to me, that means "WOOOOHOOOO!!!!" Or, in other words, I have so much hope for a full and complete recovery. Each morning I thank God for his mercy, and my family and friends for staying near me during those darkest of hours.

As for today, I am truly a lucky and very blessed woman.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Special Poem written for me

I received this poem from my one of my dearest friends on this planet. She wrote this in a mere two hours before my surgery. An amazing woman and a true friend, I can think of only one way to honor her and that is to share her creativity with all of you. But first a note from me, to her: Thank you, Ferell. You knew how frightened I was and have been steadfast by my side, I will never forget your kindness. In its entirety, here it is:

This poem was written for Arla, my precious friend, at the Tampa VA Hospital, on July 22 2009; the day of her double Mastectomy. I completed it only moments before one of her surgeons entered the waiting room with the happiest news: Arla's breast cancer had NOT advanced beyond her breasts. She is going to make a full and complete recovery, thus the message of the poem.

An Unexpected Journey

The time has come for a profound sleep, You'll rest your arms, head and feet. From the words that severed down to your soul; One was still good, but they both have to go.

Cancer is hideous, hushed even bleak, and the surgery extensive before it's complete.
Your first steps to victory starts today, An Unexpected Journey paves its way.

That which fed your children night and day, you held with poise, pride, and sultry sway. Now lay separated ashen and imagined grey. Hence, rest and tranquil still, don't give into ample fear, the Lover of your soul is always constant, ever near.

While the creator of your body is strong, not weak! He shows no signs of losses, sorrow or defeat! He has spoken; the cancer will end; your beauty remains. Sheer exquisiteness indeed you'll keep!

As your eyes open, when the mirror reveals, A void of purple scarring; your elegance the enemy tried to steal. Remember He who created your splendor precious thru, also made the physicians hands that will fashion you anew.

Though cancer tried to take your spirit, when you awaken it is far distant. You'll be whole, utter absolute, with no reason to fear it.

Written by,
Ferell A. Anderson

Monday, July 27, 2009

Your Comments

Kellie - please thank Philip. I can't imagine what the surprise is, but it must be mighty special, so I can't wait to see it! You have one awesome husband - enjoy every moment of life with him. I thought you might give me a hint!!! HA!

Hey corner man - I think you've put into words what I have been feeling: There is NO amount of money, power, or fame, that could possibly measure the blessings I have in my life. I didn't even realize it until I learned of the cancer. As much as I hate what I am going through, I'm grateful for this journey and am learning just how special people really are. The true kindness of others continues to soften my heart. OH and don't laugh - I'm taking YOU to the beach w/me!

The book I'm thinking of writing - it will be written to honor all of you who have stood by me during this challenge. Your support continues to give me the strength I need to get through each day, one day at a time. Sher and Ferell - you two are saints. I have not for one minute longed for anything without you saying "I'll be right back!" From the dogs, to the house, to the yard - you are absolute angels. I can never thank you enough.

I'm even hoping to be up to visitors by this weekend and even put the ever required mascara and lip gloss on this morning to make myself feel a little better.

As for my exercises, I got my fingers to crawl all the way up the wall yesterday. Funny how I was so proud of myself when I did it. Doc says its the best way to keep my shoulders from locking up. Believe it or not, my back is what is really hurting. Good grief, I feel like someone has beaten me with a baseball bat across my back. I'm sure its more to do with not being able to lie down properly, or stand straight up just yet, but I'm working on it!

Donna, please thank everyone for the card I received. I was stunned to find that big whale of a card in my mailbox. It made my day. I even took it to the hospital with me.

I'm trying to take pictures of everything now. Pictures of flowers, of cards, of people. I don't want to forget one moment of this, of you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm Back

Well, after quite an eventful few days, I am at home trying to recover. The surgery went well, as most of you are already aware. I can tell they dug for lymph nodes because my arm hurts terribly, but my prayers have been answered - no cancer in any of the four they checked. I am so completely overwhelmed because if I'm correct, my odds just went up by another 30%!! I'll take those odds any day.

Now, the work is really beginning. My chest hurts so bad at times that I cannot even cry. I can't lay back because (due to the expanders) my chest is swollen. And OF COURSE, I itch on my back where I can't reach - too funny. That is God showing me that I can do even the smallest of things. So, for me to itch it I use a wall and I look like Balloo (the bear on Jungle book) itching on a tree. Today I had a big first, I walked my fingers all the way up the wall - both hands. Sounds crazy, but this one little exercise is apparently very important in maintaining mobility of the limbs. Then, more drugs. Whew, don't know what I'd do without a few of the drugs to take off the edge, but I was violently ill from the morphine. Oh my, I felt so bad for my nurse, Casey - he was a fine nurse I might add - I did not know that a body in such bad shape from surgery could hurl that much out of nowhere! Thank goodness most of it hit the pink pan, but he cleaned me up well and was very good to me. Thank you Casey.

This week, I will be trying to find a way to get a few hours of sleep here and there. My back and chest hurt every moment and I walk holding what's left of the twins. I continue to try to find a way to relax and get comfy in the hopes that it will be sooner than later. Tomorrow I will have the bandages changed and I just hope I can tolerate it. Not just the looks, but also the loosening of the compression tube top too. Wish me luck....I'm trying to look at it like this - for my 45th birthday, I will have a new chest.

Well, its started thundering/lightning and after Friday night's boomers, I'm shutting down. My thanks to all for your continued support and calls and beautiful flowers. I've needed you more than I could have ever imagined, and you have really stepped up and held my hand. There are no words to convey how monumentally grateful I am for having all of you in my life.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hey there! This is Sherry - Arla's sister reporting in on Saturday 25 July 2009.

Arla was feeling a little better so we brought her home late yesterday afternoon from the Tampa VA Hospital. We got to her house a little after 6 PM and she was whipped. She had a rough time with the trip because she could feel every dip and bump in the road, even if I couldn't. We got onto I-95 South and were at a 'stop and go' pace for about 4 miles; there was an accident with a rollover vehicle in the Northbound direction so we had the gawkers in our lane heading south. Once we finally got past that accident, we flew down I-95 south for the last 30 miles or so of our 148 mile trip. She had a rough night since she was in pain and just couldn't get comfortable.

This morning I picked up Reina and Chyla(Arla's dogs) and took them back home because Arla missed her babies. Brad is still there, until I take him to the airport tomorrow morning, so he is keeping a close eye on Arla and the 'girls'. They are so used to being able to jump up and sit with her on the couch, or in the chair and they don't know why they can't do that just yet. I wish I could explain that their mommy is not feeling well and they have to wait a while for her to heal.

Ferell and I just walked over a little bit ago and checked in on them. Brad and Arla are watching a movie I gave them, so they are relaxing right now. She says she is still very sore and will probably be taking another pain pill soon. She's trying not to take too many pills, but she still needs to be able to manage the pain at the same time.

Arla just called and asked if we wanted to go out to dinner since it was Brad's last night in town. We said yes, so we will pick them up and go to the Texas Roadhouse so they can all have a nice steak. Brad is helping her right now - clean up a little and washing her hair (you know how she is about her hair - SMILE), so she is definitely on the road to recovery!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great News!

So we spoke with the doctors just before noon today. While they were completing the surgery, they found 2 more suspect lymph nodes but were able to successfully extract them as well. They advised that all 4 lymph nodes in question came back negative!!!
My mom's surgery took a little over 4 hours. The doctor was said they had very good luck with sking sparing also so they will be able to use a lot of the natural skin in the reconstruction phase.

The reconstruction phase began just after the surgery was completed due to the success of the surgery. The doctors advised that the reconstructive surgery would take anywhere from 1-2 hours and then my mom would need another 1-2 hours to recover before family could visit. If the healing process goes as scheduled, my mom should be able to leave the hospital and come home in around 48 hours. So we are hoping to bring her home on the 24th or 25th!

No update the chemo/radiation process at this time. I'm sure my mom will be able to tell you herself once she is feeling up to & has spoke w/ the doctors.

Thanks again to everyone for your thoughts & prayers!


Here we go

Hey everyone.

The nurse just came & advised that they were about to make the first cut on my mom. Just wanted to let you all know that once the surgery is complete & they tell us any updates, i'll make sure to update the blog. Thank you all for your thoughts & prayers.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's Time

Well, it is time. My son and I are getting ready to leave for Tampa where they will inject dye into my breast. I will spend 2-3 hours afterward trying to rub it in and push it towards the lymph nodes area. Sounds a little weird considering medical advances today, but what will be will be. My modesty is about shot anyway.

Yesterday, I spent the day with my children and knowing they are here with me makes this walk a little easier. My heart raced a little bit as we spoke of what is to come and no matter how I dread it, I feel there is no other choice. I choose life and my children so this is my charge.

In the past month, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on how blessed my life has been. From the people I have loved, to the ones I have been friends with, and those that I work with - which I also consider to be my friends. I've been around the world and have received amazing recognition for my efforts. From Miss Teen New York to Soldier of the Year, to most recently Barry University's Dean Award winner. But the biggest most valuable treasures I've ever received are my children. They are my true joy.

Carrying you all with me in spirit the next few days. Until my return.....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekend Before Surgery

Before I begin, I need to say one thing: To the jerks that stole my banking information AND my money!!! I'm looking for you. If I find you, I WILL prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. There, I feel better.

Well, this is it. Finally. I will get this cancer taken out of my body. There is much more to follow for sure. Chemotherapy and another surgery or two to complete reconstruction. Oh how I fear surgeries....it means someone else is in charge....lol My son, Brad, flies in tomorrow, and that will be a big relief. I need both my boys near me before they put me out.

Someone told me to do a plaster of paris mold of my chest before having the surgery. Then I could bronze them for all time. Yeah, not so sure who might want THAT after I'm long gone...but I haven't tossed the idea out yet. I still have 1 more day.... :)

I'm guessing it will be several days before I personally return to my blog - I understand I won't be able to lift my arms, but I will be back, and hopefully with many good stories! In the meantime, I will ask my sister or my son to post a few things on my behalf. Specifically, after the surgery, updating the good results, and then when I get home and fall into my own bed for what I hope will be "comfortable" rest.

Please help me pray that the cancer did NOT reach into my lymph nodes. That is the best possible outcome.

Until my return - I monumentally thank each of you who has continued to help me deal with this life changing event. You have been a great source of comfort for me, friendship, and laughter. Yes, I say laughter because without it, I think I would've crawled into a corner to hide.

Until next week......

Monday, July 13, 2009

FINALLY Some Good News....

Around 2:00pm today, my doc's office called to advise me of the results of last Tuesday's biopsies. They did remove two tumors, but they referred to them as something like adenoids or fibroid "stuff" - but what I actually heard was - "highly unlikely to turn into cancer, so we will not be testing the lymph nodes in your left arm". YAAAHHHOOOO!!!! (flip, dance)

As you can imagine, it was all I could do to contain my joy! THIS is good news indeed. I still do have breast cancer, but I sure am feeling better about it today than I did yesterday. This means that for right now only the one breast has it - that is until during surgery when they check the lymph nodes. BUT I have more hope than I did yesterday, and I am actually "feeling" like it will not be in the lymph nodes of the right breast....although I will continue my mantra of "please be negative, please be negative"....

If it isn't, my cup will runneth over.... I realize the seriousness of my situation and I do not take it lightly - these small steps are HUGE and I will relish each tiny one and thank God!!

Thank you, Jesus...one prayer at a time.

With tears in my eyes, I cannot humbly thank everyone enough that you continue to lift me up in prayer. I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ and I know that I am only borrowing this body. But I think he's listening to us.....thank you!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

New friend

I have a new friend! Her name is Susan and she is a survivor. Yesterday, 9 July, we had such a good conversation and I came away from the phone call feeling refreshed, hopeful, and inspired. This woman, my age, has been through so much already, and yet in her voice, I can hear her positivity, and feel her faith. Until that moment, I didn't realize how important it was for me to surround myself with survivors. There is also another woman, Delores, who recently had a double mastectomy, and she said her pain was very minimal - in her case, I am certain there was divine intervention! :)

Anyway, I feel hope, and faith, and I am really, really believing that I can beat this. I have asked God many times for a sign, to show me something that will help lead me, or guide me through these dark hours, and I believe he has done just that.....
Thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nuclear Grade 3

I just got back from Tampa after going over there Sunday. They ran more tests, took more blood, sent me to every floor - you know - the hospital drill.... I did get to meet more of the pre-op folks, and as expected, had more people touching and measuring the girls than I ever thought possible. GEESH! So much for modesty. Today, I had the other biopsy and during the MRI guided portion of it, the blue "stuff" lit up another area of the breast, so they drilled back in again and grabbed what they could. I'm pretty sure they took a heck of alot, but you wouldn't know it for all the swelling and bandages. Hmmnn - if I had to describe what it felt like, I'd have to say it felt like a Mack truck rolled over it, backed up, and did it again. For the next 48 hours, I have to take it very easy, no lifting, no showers, no removing the bandages...damn I swear it was a truck......lol It was the most god-awful uncomfortable thing I've endured in ages. Because of the location of the areas of concern (near my chest wall), they had to push, pull, and squish the daylights out of my breast. I swear I saw stars. Once the stars ended, the tears started. I couldn't help it. Most of it was the pain, but part of me was just in shock.....I think it was the stuff they put in my arm because not only were there tears, but uncontrollable shakes, hives, and I was ice cold. It was very strange. I honestly don't think there's anything wrong w/the left side, nor do the experts, but it's outta there too - not taking any further chances and it will help my current 70-30 chances - in my favor. Right now it is called a Nuclear Grade 3 IDC. All that means is what I've said in the past - its very aggressive.

The biggest hurdle I now face is that during surgery, they will determine whether or not the cancer has gone into my lymph nodes. If it hasn't, my chances for a full recovery are excellent. If it has, we might get lucky to push it into remission, but it will come back, and it will be lethal. That was the exact words of my oncologist today. Soooo, as you can tell, things are ever changing on this homefront. At least a hundred times a day, I ask God for mercy, to not let my lymph nodes be touched....please be negative, please be negative.

I've thought a great deal about this and I realized that my fear is not against the cancer, it is leaving my boys while they are still "growing" - they are only 20 and 23 - and that is still too young to lose your mother. I know that for a fact, because I too lost my own mother to the beast at that age. And I don't want to miss out on the great things in their life that my mom missed out on. Sooooo - I intend to beat the hell out of this as best as I can....time to put the boxing gloves on.

Where there is darkness, there is light, right? Right. Kyle and Rosie took me to the oncologist this afternoon, and on the way, in the middle of a 6 lane highway, cars are swerving and people were running around in the road. Of course we stopped, and lo and behold, a precious little kitten - not more than 4 or 5 weeks old, was trying her best to get away from traffic and people. Well, my son, my hero, caught the little one. and I believe we have a new addition to the family. Kyle called her a weiner for laying flat on the ground, but I think they should call her Lucky or Slick... really doesn't matter - she survived her big challenge early on.... look at her picture - I'll be posting it here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Time in Tampa

I drove over here to Tampa yesterday afternoon and checked in to what is called "Self care". Basically, I am at a hotel next to the hospital. No biggy - but very boring. Today, I endured several people and hundreds of questions regarding my health. My EKG looked great - smooth sinus rhythm and my blood pressure is holding steady at 110/71. Not too bad. Better yet, no fevers to worry over. Just when I thought they'd floored me one more time - by changing my surgery date, I did get a nice phone call. First though - my surgery date has been changed by one day. It is now scheduled for 22 July 09, in lieu of 21 July. The surgery will last somewhere around 6 hours. I get to have all four surgeons in the OR with me. Wonder what I did to deserve this attention. I believe I know what it is -it's that mean triple negative again - everyone is quite interested in that....everyone but me....they talk about me daily in their group meetings getting status updates, etc.

Anyway - I received a call from a woman with Barry U (I will keep her name to myself) that underwent a bilateral herself just last month. She sounded wonderful and certainly lifted my spirits. She didn't do the reconstruction, and she feels pretty good. She has very good movement with one arm, and the other arm is coming along, just more slowly. I understand the exercises I will have to do can be excruciating, but I continue to pray to God for mercy. I will start by using my fingers to "crawl" up a wall. The smallest of things can or will be challenging, but that's ok - I want to get this over with and get healthy again.

Tomorrow I have the dreaded biopsy on the left breast. Please be negative, please be negative....If its negative, it is one more bit of hope I have to hold on to for recovering/remission from this dragon beast. I continue to believe......

Monday, June 29, 2009

BIG Decision

Well, this afternoon I still did not get an exact date for my surgery, but they said it will be between 14-31 Jul 09. The issue right now is getting my surgeon's team to marry up with the reconstruction/plastic surgery team - which is no easy task.

I'm faced with such a big decision and all comments are welcome. I have two options for reconstruction, I can have expanders put in and have them stretch the skin over a period of time, only to remove the expanders (down the road) and insert silicone implants. I know, you're thinking "Why silicone?" Well, believe it or not saline swishes when you move - at least for women who've had this type of reconstruction because there is no muscle to keep it from doing ocean rolls, so surgeons opt for silicone which is thicker. My second option is to have the "tram flap" surgery. With this, they open up my abdomen, take part of my "six pack" and push it up and under the skin where it ultimately goes into the open spaces where my breasts were. This surgery is longer and has more obvious risks associated with it. From what I understand the recovery process is harder, but everything utilized would be part of my own body and not fake.

Any recommendations out there? Or might you know of anyone who has had the tram flap?