Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Day

Another beautiful day has graced me yet again. It was filled with the regular chaos that just happens to be my work and school life, but it is what I thrive on.

Somehow, I never imagined me saying this, but my chest looks good this week. I've been watching it very close and praying hard for no more infections. Six surgeries has been awfully hard on my body and I'm exhausted. But when I get really tired I just ask for the strength to get up, dress up, and show up. Or as a new friend accidently said, get up, dress up and shut up?? She was a little confused - I'll never shut up. :)

I volunteered at one of the colleges to do a criminal justice interview today. I acted as an aunt of a deceased (murdered) niece and the class ultimately tried to pin it on me! They did a pretty good job for being new students so kudo's to CJ students in Dexter's almost got my shoes! LOL

Tropical Depression Bonnie is down near the Bahama's. El Nina' is on the warpath - or as my son and I were talking - "The bitch is back". I'm glad she's not strengthening any further for all our sakes. But we can sure use the incoming rain.

Sometimes, don't you just have lean a little to the side and wonder....."What the hell is wrong with our society"..... I read news that the VA in St. Louis has tragically deprived some veterans of basic rights. What do I mean by that? Well, they went to the VA dentist for treatment and the facility was not properly sterilizing the equipment. Now, many soldiers will suffer the consequences of those lazy employees. Suffering can and already has come in the form of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. Now that's some scary stuff considering I myself used the one downtown years ago. Someone's head needs to spin and I am serious. I will closely follow this case. I have dealt with that VA before as I retired out of St. Louis and I remember thinking "I will never come here if I don't have to" because it is in horrible condition. Why? Why would we treat our soldiers who defend this country like they are dirt and not worthy of a clean facility at the very minimum? I'm quite distressed over that.

I feel fairly lucky to be able to go to Tampa VA. I have said many times that I have received good care there, and I mean that. I have had infections that I think could have been prevented, however, they took immediate action and took care of me.

I went back to look at my class information - arrgghh - I thought I was done in December...but it looks like March with graduation in May and that depends on what classes are offered. Sometimes my little chemo fog can be a good thing.....BUT I am totally ok with it, I am enjoying going to school and meeting people and learning some new things. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is the class I'm saving till the end Business Finance...ouch. I hear it difficult and it is my weakness so that means for 9 weeks, I will be doing whatever it takes to get through it.

Wishing you all a peaceful and safe weekend. A special e-hug to two people Kellie, whose Daddy just got out of the hospital - it was a tought few days for her, and Adrienne, who after months of chemo, started radiation today. You are in my thoughts and prayers ladies. Love to all~ know that I carry you with me always.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The new normal

Hello everyone. Well, as I said in my last post there will always be good days and not so good days. I don't really believe in bad days. Any day where I can stand up and thank the good Lord for giving me another day is a good day.

That being said, I returned to Tampa to recon and inquired with them about HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) and they shot me down. At first I was a little distressed because I've had several setbacks, but once I put it all in perspective, I realize that my particular situation, while not great, is not as bad as what that therapy was created for (according to Dr. G). You really need wounds that do not heal at all, etc to qualify for the treatment and although breast cancer patients are just now being looked at, they are not being considered at Tampa VA. I think they are missing the boat, and even Leslie thought so. Enough that she said she is going to provide further input on my behalf for it. Apparently, my "infection" on the right side is a stitch working its way out...Did you know it can take six months to a year for stitches to dissolve or absorb into the skin? I didn't know that.

I was quite frustrated and proceeded to ask several other questions - why does my skin prickle in the sun? When will I start to feel better? Where am I on the scale of ill to well? Where am I on the scale of other patients? Why do I feel so damn lousy all the time? FIX MEEEE!!! Dr G's answers were as follows: Chemo can have long-term neurological effects and prickly skin can be one of those things. On the scale, I am considered "normal" - kind of right in the middle, just like on a dryer. Same thing with regard to where I fit with other patients. Other patients with my type of cancer have the same setbacks and it can take a year, or longer before getting back on your feet. I feel lousy because I've been to hell and back and my body is fighting and wants to be better than normal. They all sound like simple answers don't they?

Finally, she said that if I can stay healthy for another four weeks, I just might lick this thing with regard to the implants. I still think my body is rejecting them but she says no, she doesn't even want to consider removing them. Isn't that funny? My sister convinces me that it just might be time to get them removed and give my body time to heal and the plastic surgeon says, "No way!" I'll give it that four weeks and then we'll see, but if there are any more infections, then I need to be very serious about this. These infections are life-threatening and one day, I hope to meet my grand-children (no pressure boys)...I just want to be able to be around for those special times.

As for the HBOT, I don't quite think I'm ready to give up on the idea for breast cancer patients to receive such therapy. I will fight if I think it will help others. Hugs to all

Monday, July 12, 2010


I'm still a little off-balance since Joyce passed away last week and I've gone from being sad to now becoming angry at my own treatment.

I spent hours researching why my chest will not heal correctly. First, I know that because I am a triple negative, I will have setbacks, everything will be harder, and I have to keep that in mind. People question it over and over and I can't explain it other than what I have been told; not enough research has been done to explain why that is, it just is. And TNBC patients heal much slower and have weaker immune systems.

Needless to say, I've become a little pissy. I am so sick of being sick. Lord forgive me, I don't want to treat anyone poorly, I really don't, but my life is on the line here so I have no patience left for anyone not willing to step it up. I feel ill and I'm weak, physically, and THAT scares me. If I had any energy whatsoever I could try to gain some strength, but then I would only jeopardize the two steps forward I might be making with my breasts that keep breaking open. This is a vicious circle that is breaking me down mentally and I could sure use some mercy.

After 6 surgeries, I found out that after EVERY surgery, a patient is up to 70% more likely to die from DVT (deep vein thrombosis) than if they hadn't had surgery. And that percentage is for a whole three months. So, basically, for the entire last year, I've been in that critical window....nice of ANYONE to fill me on that note. I mean, really, shouldn't someone, anyone, have thought to tell ME about it?? Well, actually, in their defense, they may have and my chemo brain did a dump.

Now, on the upside, diabetics are often treated for non-healing wounds in hyperbaric oxygen chambers and they are up to 65% effective. When I go to Tampa on Wednesday, I will ask for consideration to use the chambers. Either that, or I seriously have to consider removing the implants or a second opinion, or surgeon. I definitely have another problem and that will mean another surgery because there has been yet one more breach and I feel like a guinea pig...dammit....Something's gotta give...I just have to find the right person to help me.

I know how lucky I am, I do, I really do, I'm just having a hard time accepting the fact that I may not have breasts after all...and for me, this very moment..that's tough. I've pretty much always been a girly girl and from the beginning of this, my light at the end of this tunnel was the reconstruction after chemo, etc. So now what?

Also,I'm not trying to be a downer here, but I promised I would try to keep this real and to do that means sharing the not so good days too....doing anything else would be disrespectful not only to myself, but to every breast cancer patient that follows down this road behind me. There are ups and there are downs, today is just one of those down days...and it too shall pass....the good Lord will pick me up again....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goodbye, my friend

This was a difficult week for me. My friend, Joyce Atkins, who was diagnosed with breast cancer right around the same time as I was, died Monday, from complications of another surgery. Her daughter Theresa called me. It was so unexpected that as I was talking to her, I began to cry. I just couldn't believe it, I had just talked to her two weeks ago and although she looked exhausted (don't we all), she was chipper. So, the rest of my thoughts this day are dedicated in memory of her.

Fast food or Pot roast. Sometimes, we are called upon to do things that we don't want to do, and often, it takes much longer than we want it to take. It is painful and it tests our patience and our sanity (and that of our loved ones!). But the challenges presented upon us are what make us exactly who we are, exactly the way God intended us to be, and so my question for you today is, do you want fast food or pot roast? Personally, I want pot roast and if that means I have to endure this a little longer, because there is meaning in HIS eyes, then there MUST be meaning to it, somewhere, somehow. And that is exactly what I think my friend Joyce would want all of her friends and family to believe as well. Choose the pot roast. Take your time and live your life one day at a time and be happy with what you we don't know what tomorrow holds. Love your family and friends for who they are, not what you want them to be. Love yourself, exactly the way you are, not the way you wish you could be. Tomorrow will come, by fast food or pot roast and I hope that you savor each and every moment. I will miss my friend, Joyce, but I believe she was called home when it was her time.

Other than that, I think I might have another infection. I'm trying not to be down about it. Again, I'm thinking pot roast. After all, I have to remain positive, as that is half the battle, right. My other bosom buddy, Adrienne, finished chemo and is getting ready to start her radiation. Please keep her in your prayers. She is Stage 4 with metastasis to the back. Her daughter Emma, 8, is growing wise beyond her years. I hope that as the summer progresses you can find an extra dollar to donate towards my Making Strides for the American Cancer Society campaign this year. One day, women around the world will not have to worry about breast cancer, I hope, I hope, I hope......Until then, I will continue to battle against the beast and pray for a cure. I will post my link on the next writing.

Hugs to all.....

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day 2010

Happy Independence Day 2010. 234 years ago, this great country gained her freedom, and we still have it. Serving in the military has been a part of my family for several generations and in 2004, I retired from the US Army. Our Flag represents what and who we are as a nation and I hope that those who have the responsibility to lead us always remember how hard our forefathers worked, and the lives lost before us.

It has been a tough couple of weeks, but I shall not whine, for I know that I am lucky. I've said that all along from the moment I found out I had cancer. They found it early, I had the surgery - six of them now, and I've been able to undergo reconstruction. The cancer remains in remission with no signs of it anywhere else in my body...thank you, Jesus. I'm just so darn tired from this bacterial infection I'm fighting that it has knocked me down hard. It's quite scary actually. This too shall pass as my son would say.

Pseudomonas, a not so fun bacteria that can hurt you from the outside, or inside. It particularly likes people with weakened immune systems...people like me. Doctor's appointments a plenty to check the blood and skin, etc. That's ok - be proactive - that's what saved my life in the first place...

Anyway, as each day goes by, I'm feeling a wee bit better. No redness, no fever, and that increases my odds. I'm thinking about doing a lot of things differently, sooner than later. What I mean is I want to visit places and see people I haven't seen and do those things I've been putting off. One thing is for certain; this last year has taught me that cancer waits for no one. With that momentum, I went to see my brother, Tom, who is incarcerated in Polk County. I love Tommy, he is truly the funniest guy I've ever met, and he has one flaw - no, he has two: One - he can't keep his hands on his own property, and two - he has only one kidney. Other than that, he's a good guy. We spent a few hours catching up on lost time. It was nice.

While you watch the fireworks this evening, try to watch them as if it were the first, and last time you were to ever experience them.....Why? It's just an amazing feeling and you become fully present, right there and enjoy that very moment. Love to all for a special and spectacular July 4th.....