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 means someone else is in 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, 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 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......