Category: faith

How can it be, Yesterday was June, today is October

How can it be, Yesterday was June, today is October

No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop time, and it really seems the older we get, the faster it goes.

For me, time has been flying by in nano-blinks (new term, but seems to make sense).  Since i last wrote so much has happened in my life.

  1. I had my final reconstruction surgery (I hope), removing the tissue expanders and inserting the permanent implants, have to admit, the expanders felt like rocks, as far from real as could be, the implants do feel real, or at least as real as can be expected. 🙂
  2. The Herceptin isn’t toxic to the veins like the harsher chemo, so i had my port removed with the final reconstruction surgery.  The surgeon was able to remove the port from the inside, without having to re-open the incision used to insert the port, what good news 🙂
  3. I am back to work full time.  Only missed a month 🙂
  4. I am on just Herceptin for my chemo treatments which means side effects are much lower and fewer sick days !!!  🙂
    1. Hair is growing back
      1. It started coming in gray, then started getting dark, darker than anything I ever had, now, like my oldest daughter says, it looks like a Dalmatian.
      2. Hair is growing very slowly, started growing around first of July and now it is reaching the equivalent of the ‘terrible twos’, it truly has a mind of it’s own
      3. Doc told me that since my hair is normally very curly it would come in straight, and be straight for a year… well, it was straight for a month, now that it is long enough to wave, it is waving all over the place 😦  I was really looking forward to straight hair after spending so many years with keratin treatments.
      4. Ugh, i have to shave my legs every day again!!!  It was so nice not having to shave, if there was a way that I could possibly bottle the no hair from neck down I think i could be a bajillionaire 🙂
      5. Not wearing the wigs anymore 🙂  The blue wig was the best, you couldn’t help but feel better when you looked in the mirror and saw yourself with blue hair 🙂
    2. Fingernails are growing back, yes, you heard me right, the chemo took my fingernails too.  they didn’t fall completely off, but they receded drastically.  what was left from the nail bed was so weak and shredded they were terrible.  They haven’t grown to the end of my finger yet, but they certainly are growing.  And believe it or not I am getting ingrown fingernails, like people do on thier toes.  They really are painful but i think i am getting past them.  My fingernails split down the length of the nail, very painful.
    3. Nausea is much less frequent and my meds that i am taking are greatly reduced
    4. I still go through puberty during each chemo cycle, breaking out on my face, but it is a much smaller period.
    5. My neuropathy isn’t getting worse, but it isn’t getting better eirther.
      1. primarily on my right side, right foot and leg the most
      2. what good luck, the hot tub actually makes it feel better 🙂
      3. what bad luck, being on my feet for extended periods makes it feel worse
    6. Fatigue is very real, your get up and go, got up and left. . .
  5. Mom had to get a new aortic valve and a double bypass the first part of June.  I could see her room from my chemo room, at that time my chemo was taking 8 – 9 hours, now i am in and out of there in an hour and a half.  🙂
  6. We went to Alaska for my nephews wedding, what a beautiful place, we would love to go back.  We were there the longest day and went to the midnight sun baseball game.  the game is in Fairbanks and starts at 10:00 and is played without lights. 🙂  Crazy awesome having such long days in the summer, think it would be crazy bummer having so little light in the winter.
  7. 8/20 I got married!!!  🙂  Married to my best friend and soul mate and couldn’t be happier!!
    1. Looking forward to honeymoon in November
  8. 8/22 Alaina, my oldest is back to school at IA state
  9. 8/22 Anna, my youngest shipped for Marine Boot Camp, Parris Island
    1. I cannot believe how dependent we have become on cell phones, now that Anna is off to boot camp, the only way to communicate with her for 13 weeks is via good old pen and paper!!!
    2. I have been one of those that will actually go days without looking in my mail box, now i find myself stalking my mailbox!!! waiting for the next letter and reading and re-reading those letters she has written, they are very dog eared and very loved.
    3. How bad am I, I have printed sheets of address labels so I can quickly zip off cards and letters to Anna.  I have even sent Anna some stamped and self addressed envelopes… lol, she ran out of stamps and stationary, she has been wonderful about writing to so many of us, i feel very fortunate, i know there are many parents that go weeks waiting on communication from their recruits.
    4. Looking forward to her graduation date 11/18.

So here is the question – what can I do to help those that are going through or about to go through what I have experienced and continue to experience…. I share these nuggets with you.

  1. Never give up your faith, i know that my faith continues to pull me through.
    1. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to good people.  Stuff happens, we need to keep our faith always and know that God is always with us, He will never leave us to endure alone.
  2. Don’t give in to that crummy sick feeling, force yourself to get out and do things, but remember everything within moderation.
    1. think about it, if you are going to feel crummy no matter what you are doing, you might as well at least try doing something fun 🙂  Unless of course you are feeling so crummy you can’t leave the bathroom… that happens 😦
  3. sometimes you just feel like crying, that’s o.k.
  4. Keep working your brain, chemo brain is a real thing that affects the short term memory in a strange way, it makes you feel like you are walking through a dream
  5. Take up those offers from family and friends to help out, they want to help, but you need to tell them it’s o.k.
    1. One of my favorite things during chemo is a friend that took me to lunch each Wednesday before chemo Monday’s, it really meant a lot to me and got me out when i wouldn’t have otherwise gone out.
  6. Get back into your normal gradually, if you have read my previous blogs, you will know that i have had a problem with this one, get back on the horse, leave the bronc in the paddock for another day…  🙂
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Seriously, if the roof leaks, the cheese got moldy or you didn’t make your bed, it isn’t the end of the world, those things are easily corrected and we move on.

I promise not to be so long before the next post.  Keep faith and know that you are never alone, God is always walking with us.  We can all beat this thing called Cancer.  My prayers are with you. 🙂  Til next time. 🙂

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Chemo vs. Type-A … And the winner is

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Sometimes it takes a long time to learn the lesson God is trying to teach…  For me, this is especially true as it pertains to taking care of myself.  On days when I feel well, I want to do everything… and I mean everything…. Last weekend, on Sunday morning I woke up feeling like I was ready to tackle the world.  We decided to go for a bike ride, I have been a biker for years and thought sure, i can totally do this 🙂  Now, the smart thing, would have been to choose to go on a short bike ride, after being sedentary with chemo for months… nope, not me… remember, i am the one that has trouble learning… We decided to go on a 40 mile ride.  (38 actually)  19 miles to Martinsdale, eat breakfast, ride back home.  I knew I would be getting tired along the way, so we decided to take it slow and take breaks as needed.  When we were out from Martinsdale about 5 miles, I noticed some gorgeous patches of iris’s running parallel to the trail (two patches each about 30′ in diameter).  They were so beautiful, I asked Gerry if he saw the patches of Iris.  And I went on about how gorgeous they were, in full bloom, yada yada.  Well, I did such a good job talking about how wonderful they were, Gerry decided to turn around and look at what he missed… oops, when he did, there was a little swerve, we bumped bikes and I was a little too weak to keep it up, down i went. 😦  Gerry still feels very badly about the accident and immediately offered to ride home, get the truck and pick me up… but of course you remember me, the one that has trouble learning … toughed it out and rode back ….

Once we got back home, it was time to clean up and take Anna out for her graduation dinner.  Yes, I should have been going straight to bed.  The next day, was sick all day, gradually getting worse each day until Saturday I ended up getting two units of blood.  Yes, I am my own worst enemy.  Had I just gone for a short ride, gradually building up my stamina, I would have been much better off.  Did I learn, nope, not me, Sunday after receiving blood, I felt great, decided it would be a perfect day to work in the yard, weeding, pruning, etc.  Of course, the smart person, would have done this in moderation, not me, worked from 11:30 – 7:30, you guessed it, felt very poorly for several days 😦

Lesson learned?  I would like to tell you yes, I have learned the lesson God is so patiently trying to teach me, but i won’t lie, I am not sure that is the case.  Being a type-A personality, I have two speeds… 100 mph and 0 mph, with moderation not even in my vocabulary.

When it comes to rest and relaxation, i am worse than a two year old fighting a nap. Thanks to a very wise boss, I am now on a Leave of Absence.  In hind sight, I should have taken a leave earlier.  While I have been going through chemo I have had a tough time with side effects and  very low energy,  still try to be everything for everyone.  Knowing that I don’t have the strength to do it all and stressing myself out because I am not giving 150% I was burning my candle at ends I didn’t even have.  Yes, I am learning, yes, I am getting more rest, and yes, I believe that I am getting stronger, I just need to keep me out of my way to wellness . . .  LOL

Through God’s strength, I am learning to slow down, take it easy, remember there is tomorrow, and take time to heal.  I know that I will be stronger than ever, as long as I give myself the rest my body is so desperately seeking.  Only short bike rides until my strength is built back up and yard work in moderation, which doesn’t mean 7 or 8 hours…  In to bed early, out of bed late, it is o.k. to rest, it is o.k. to leave a dirty dish in the sink and it is o.k. to leave laundry in the hamper…

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Look Good Feel Better

IMG_20160329_145850495.jpgIt has been too long since my last post, my apology to all of you. The last two rounds of chemo tried to kick my butt while I kicked cancer’s butt.  I win 🙂  This brings me to one of the things I would like to talk to you about today.  What is it about being female where we are always taking care of others before we take care of ourselves?  I find myself  guilty of this, rather than taking this time to rest and heal, I continue to push myself to do things for others . . .  While I can argue with myself, that doing for others is always beneficial, I still need to accept the fact that most import is time for rest and healing.  Geesh, it is tough to admit my human frailties 🙂  We all want to believe that we are invincible, that we are the one that can do it differently, that we are the one that can burn the candle at both ends. . .  guess what, we aren’t. . .  we are all human and all need assistance from God to make it through this, and all need to take time to rest and heal.

I am very excited to share with you a wonderful program the American Cancer Society sponsors.  Look Good Feel Better, you can find information on the program at lookgoodfeelbetter.org

Look Good Feel Better classes are led by volunteers and are free to all cancer patients.  They are designed to help women be beautiful inside and out during their fight with cancer.  Hair is lost, skin is sallow, moods are down, anything to feel better is good 🙂  Over my last couple chemo sessions I can definitely attest to this.  There were many times when I didn’t feel that I had the energy to even color in eyebrows . . .  yep, they are gone, and trust me, people look much better with eyebrows.  It is funny, when you don’t have eyebrows, you really start to notice everyone’s eyebrows, I am seriously considering having mine tattooed after I finish chemo.  One of the ladies in my cancer support group lost her eyebrows during chemo and they never came back.  Her tattooed eyebrows always look perfect.  Hey, one less thing to think about is always good 🙂

Each of the Look Good Feel Better participants will receive a make-up bag filled with cosmetics donated by numerous cosmetic companies.  Bags are filled with foundation, moisturizer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, etc for each class attendee to use and keep.  Everything you need to help you look good and feel better.

This week I was introduced to Qigong (pronounced chee gong).  From Wikiopedia – Qigong is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), translated as “life energy”.

I attended a Qigong class on Monday evening.  Monday evening I had the best sleep since I have started chemo.  I don’t know if it was due to Qigong (what I believe it is attributed to), or because I was in the cancer center Monday afternoon getting fluids to remedy dehydration.  I will start attending class each Monday night and will let you all know how it progresses.  Here are some of my observations from the first class –

  1. I have literally been freezing since I started chemo.  I finally felt warm from my fingers to my toes.
  2. During one of the breathing exercises while we were standing I felt my back ‘click’ into place, a good feeling.
  3. After the class I felt pain free (which is unusual for me).
  4. After the class I felt complete serenity.
  5. I slept the best I slept since I started chemo.

I am looking forward to practicing and learning more about Qigong.   It sounds like there have been very positive results for cancer patients practicing Qigong.  I will keep you all posted on what I learn and experience.  Would love to hear from you.

Wishing you all the best as you go through your journeys.  May God always be in your heart and on your mind as He walks each day with you.

Until next time.  🙂

 

Foodie vs. Chemo . . .

IMG_20160303_100718Thank you for joining me on my journey with Breast Cancer.  I know that God has brought us together as I go through my journey, I know each of you is going through your own journey, my prayers are with all of you.

All my life, I have been a Foodie.  Everything Food, cooking, creating, eating, sharing 🙂  what can I say, I am Bohemian 🙂  It’s in my blood.

When they tell you your taste changes during chemo…  That is an understatement…  First, you seldom have an appetite because you aren’t feeling well, achy, flu-like symptoms aren’t condusive to wanting to prepare or eat food.  But then you have those days that all of a sudden, you are starving for one of your favorite foods and can’t wait to have it.  For me, I was seriously craving a smoked turkey and bacon sandwhich on garlic foccacia from South Union Bread cafe.  This place is only open for lunch and only on Monday – Friday.  On the day of the ‘craving’, I had a total of 27 minutes between meetings to get downtown to pick up a sandwhich.  This is how it went down –

  • Meeting ends,
  • Jump in the car
  • Drive downtown (4 minutes)
  • get to restaurant
  • Doors are locked, patrons inside
  • knock on windows
  • server opens door and i ask if i can get a sandwhich to go
  • server checks if ovens are still on
  • score, ovens are still on and i am going to get my sandwhich 🙂
  • Order sandwhich,
  • Drive back home
  • on time for next meeting.

The entire time I am driving home and dialing into my meeting, I am smelling the sandwhich and can’t wait to bite into it.   Ashamed to admit,  my jowls are watering,  just the thought of ‘the sandwhich’.  Then it happens, finally a break in the call where I can mute my phone and dive into my coveted sandwhich.  I take the first bite, expecting all the flavors that match smells.  Bite, chew, chew, chew,…  Where are the flavors… Not in first bite.  Second bite, chew, chew, chew,…  Ugh, still none of the  flavors I am looking for, just the opposite 😦 try a couple more bites and give up on sandwhich 😦

This is one of the biggest downfalls of chemo for me.  I love to cook, bake, eat and entertain.   But when everything you make tastes bad, you are hesitant to give it to anyone 😦

Eating and Chemo in general, is not a good combination.  Either you don’t feel well enough to want to eat and are working just to get protein and calories or… you finally feel well enough to want to eat and nothing is tasting the way you expect it to :-(.  The Chemo cycle is one of losing weight (I tend to lose 5 pounds in the first week), working to gain the weight back before the next chemo.  Last chemo, I hit my previous chemo weight the day before I went back to chemo.

I have three weeks between my chemo sessions.  The first week is the bad, the second week better, the third week the best, i am just staring week three and it is when I start really feeling human again.  I will have four more chemo sessions with the really bad drugs and side effects (as long as my blood counts stay where they need to be, i will be done with those in May).  After the four, I will continue the rest of the year with a single drug that does NOT cause hair loss, which means my hair will start coming back 🙂  Yippee!!!! Hair is a really good thing to have on your head, especially if you are female, however, there are a few benefits 🙂  Yep, here we go with the silver linging –

  1. Save $$$’s on shampoo and conditioner
  2. Don’t have to spend time drying hair
  3. For me, don’t have to spend time flattening hair 🙂
  4. Haven’t had to shave my legs for a month and they are baby bottom smooth 🙂
  5. Shower time is wicked fast when you aren’t shaving hards of flesh, shampooing and conditioning 🙂

Signing off for today, wishing you all a wonderfully blessed journey in all that you do.  May God always give you comfort, until next time.  Happy Trails 🙂

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

On Super Bowl Sunday, for an early pre-game activity, Gerry shaved my head down to a quarter inch.  Everything I had heard about my chemo and hair loss, told me that when my hair started to come out, it would be coming out by the fist full, that there would be huge clumps on my pillow, in my hairbrush, etc. I didn’t want to be in that place.  A week later, my hair hadn’t started to fall out, Gerry and I both had a dream that I went all the way through chemo without loosing any hair. . .  Nice thought but no cigar. . .  Feb. 6 we shaved my head, Feb. 17 my hair started to hurt, for anyone that has had long hair in a pony tail all day, you know the feeling at night when you take the pony tail out and your hair hurts at the routes because it has been bent the wrong way all day.  Well, that is exactly how it felt all over my head, I though it was just from wearing my wig.  The hair pain stayed for four days, and then on Sunday Feb. 21 it happened, my hair started to come out worse then a heavily shedding dog.  Hair on my head and my eyebrows is coming out, making me look like a spotted Dalmatian.  It is turning into wig, scarf, cap time for sure :-).

My second Chemo is complete.  My first chemo was 8 hours, second 5 hours, going forward my chemo should only be 4.5 hours for the next four chemo sessions and then finishing out the year with 2 hour sessions, much more manageable.

I am not nearly as apprehensive about the next few weeks post chemo like I was last time.  I have a much better idea of what to expect, what I need to take when and how long it will all last.  What to take for bone pain, what to take for nausea, when to take them, etc.  And most of all, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  A huge thank you to friends and family for all of your support and a giant thank you to Lorinda and Glenace for getting my girl cave going!!! I have already used it several times, note the pictures below, I cut a XXL t-shirt down into a dress for the baconfest, couldn’t have done it without you!!!

Last week I had another fill in my expanders.  I only have one fill left and then we will need to wait until after the long chemos to put in the permanent implants, hopefully all will go well, and they will be in this summer before our wedding. 🙂  Yep, we decided to make it official and get married late summer, we are looking forward to the happy day.

Baconfest was a success, I made it through in flying colors, it was two days before my chemo so I was feeling very well.

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As we go through life, we never know what is around the next corner, the only thing we do know is that God will always be there with us and will always give us what we need to make it through the challenges life offer us.  Keep God in your heart, keep your family and friends close and let people know when you need help, it’s o.k. to now always be the strong one.

Thank you all for your continued support, I believe that God has brought us all together so that we can help each other on our journeys through life.  Special prayers out to my friend Sally, she is having a really tough time right now as God is helping her son and nephew during their healing process.

Until next time, may God Bless all of you,

xoxoxo

Linda

 

Time for a fill – :-)

Today’s blog will cover the Tissue Expander and what happens during breast reconstruction using the Tissue Expander.  However, before I get started on our topic for the day, I would like to share my amazement with you regarding social media.

I graduated from high school in 1975, at that time, we didn’t have a computer in our school.  I took typing and it was a really big deal that our school had electric typewriters (I lived in a town approximately 25k).  We loved it when we got to use the mimeograph machine for personal use, and HATED typing with carbon papers.

My stepchildren initially got me into Facebook years ago to keep up with their activities (they live miles away).  Subsequently I have become a ‘hip old mom’, my daughters are 17 & 20 and we are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and they are trying to teach me SnapChat (I am a better receiver than sender… lol).  So seriously, where am I going with all of this?  I started this blog 11 days ago and I am literally amazed that I have gone international!!!  I have readers in US, Mexico, Switzerland, Philippines, Australia, Norway and Canada!!  Social media really has come a very long way in providing each of us the ability to reach out and touch someone’s life that we would otherwise not be able to reach.  I pray that each of your lives that I touch I am able to leave you with the warmth of the Lord and the ability to either help cope with your own journey or those journey’s of friends and family.

Thank you all for your amazing support, I appreciate all of your continued thoughts and prayers and please know that I am sending thoughts and prayers out to each of you daily, wherever you are in our world, whatever your journey.  We are all in God’s hands, and all in God’s plans.  May God bless you today and always.

Now, onto our blog for the day 🙂

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The Tissue Expander is placed between the ribs and the pectoral muscle, it is gradually expanded by injecting saline solution.  During the expansion phase, a pocket is being created that will ultimately be the home for the permanent implant.

So, what does this mean –

  • During the expansion
    • Breasts are hard as rock (seriously, you could hurt someone, especially if you hug a pregnant friend with sore breasts… sorry Joanne!)
    • After each fill, as the pectoral muscle is stretching it is definitely sore, but tolerable.
    • No need for a bra, those hard rocks are held in place and absolutely NOT moving, not even when running 🙂  HUGE Plus!!!!
    • Expansion will go a little farther that the ultimate desired size, this is to build a pocket that is large enough and soft enough to allow the implant to feel more real.
    • Question I have to ask the Dr.  If I get to working out again post chemo and am really working on the pecs, could I create a negative impact on my implant?
  • Post expansion
    • Surgery to remove the expanders and insert the implants.
    • Because the implant is under the pec muscle, the implant will be held securely in place, consider my pec muscle as my support bra, pretty cool 🙂
    • Periodic follow ups.
    • Tattoo nipple on left breast, right breast was able to preserve nipple.  (never say never, haha, always said I would NEVER have a tattoo… who knew… God did of course 🙂 , another lesson in humility)

The Fill

  • The Tissue Expander has a special port on it for the Dr to inject the saline, similar concept to the chemo port.  The nurse finds the port using a special apparatus that has a magnet hanging from a pendulum and marks the spot.

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  • The Dr. comes in with the syringes and injects saline into the expanders.

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  • Syringe is removed, small bandage applied and you are on your way until your next fill.
  • I only have two or three fills left to go and will be filling every two weeks, we are taking it slow since I won’t be able to have my expanders removed and implants put in place until at least June (based on when the first 6 cycles of chemo wrap up).

A huge thank you to all for your continued support and encouragement.  I know that God has brought each of you into my life and pray that you have strength in all of your journeys.  God Bless all of you, until next time 🙂