Tag: reconstruction

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

 

call me ‘chemo brain’

Until a few days ago, I felt as though time was folding over itself, some type of a weird time warp continuum.  It all started the day after chemo.  It had only been 12 hours since I had finished my first chemo, yet it seemed like it had been at least a month.  I call it my ‘Chemo Brain’.

The last two weeks have been filled with learning how my body responds to chemo and  what arrows I have in my quiver to combat the responses.  I know I have been very fortunate, there are many people that have it much worse than I do.  For me, it was the constant feeling of aches, fatigue, light headed, loss of appetite, abdominal pains, headache, nausea,  poor sleep, etc.  Then suddenly on Friday morning, 10 days after chemo, it was gone, the fog cleared, the pains were gone and I was back feeling like a normal human again!  With only the fatigue remaining.  I have never been one that could take naps during the day, now my naps take me… LOL  the exhaustion is crazy, never dreamt I could get so tired doing nothing… LOL

Two of the side effects that I wasn’t planning for  were puberty and dark circles under my eyes …. nobody told me that my face would break out so badly that I would look like junior high all over 😦  fortunately, it only lasted a week and seems to be getting back to normal.  However, my skin is extremely dry.  I also was not expecting to have the dark under my eyes, i researched and found that it was due to thin skin and bleeding capillaries.  Those are getting better now as well.

On Super Bown Sunday, my pregame activity was Gerry shaving my head. 🙂  I am now sporting a head of hair that is maybe 1/4″ long 🙂  I knew I didn’t want to get to the point where it would be falling out in clumps on my pillow or hairbrush.  Gerry and the girls like my wig (they said I look like a movie mom that is always wearing pearls… guess that means I need to start wearing mine) and Anna thinks I look like a ‘female ninja’ without my wig on 🙂  Can you pick which picture is with the wig 🙂  Gotta have fun where we can 🙂

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I think the most difficult part for me post chemo was not knowing what to expect and for how long.  I think the next round of chemo will be easier as I will know what to take when, i will know how long I need to grin and bear it and most importantly, I know there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel.  And of course it goes without saying, God is always with me. 🙂

The top things I need to remember as I prepare for my next round of chemo –

  1. stay on top of nausea
  2. stay on top of nausea
  3. stay on top of nausea
  4. take clariton for the bone pain before it starts
  5. consume a protein shake before going to bed (found that it makes me feel much better in the morning)
  6. take tylenol before going to bed to help with headaches
  7. start taking steroids day before chemo
  8. take healthy snacks to chemo (last session 8 hours, next will only be 5 hours), the steroids made me so hungry last time I could have eaten two chickens!!! and then had a pound cake (or two) for dessert.  pretty sure last time I ate my weight in gardettos, cheese crackers and peanut butter crackers. . . oops

This Saturday I will be going to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest where I will be eating bacon with 10k of my closest friends. 🙂  We have been going for several years.  The question for this year… will I be up to eating bacon?  will it taste good? will I have energy to make it through the day?  you know I will try 🙂

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Thank you for sharing my journey with me.  I pray that each of you has success in all of your journeys.  Until next time, keep the faith. 🙂

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 🙂

 

Words from a first time Chemo recipient

Words from a first time Chemo recipient

I walked into the whole cancer world very ignorant….  I thought cancer was cancer and chemo was chemo.  Seriously, I could have never been more wrong…  that is like saying that a car is a car and we definitely know that isn’t true, no one on this earth would compare a Bentley to a Prius – no offense intended.

Well, just as there are many different models, manufactures and options on cars, there are just as many different types of cancers and subsequent treatments.

Like I told you in an earlier post, my cancer is HER2 positive, because of the aggressive nature, i will be taking chemo for a year, however, after the first 6 cycles i only need to take the drug that is specifically targetted at HER2.  Good news, Immune system won’t be compromised !!!!  Yeah!!!  Hair will start to grow back, Yippee!!!

Let’s talk about hair… I learned today that typically hair will grow back opposite of what it was, i.e. straight goes curly, curly goes straight! That is great news for me, huge timesaver in the hair straightening department and I also learned that it could come in dark… 🙂 no gray 🙂 i am totally good with that, now the bad news (again, ugh) everything typically goes back to the way it was originally in about a year after chemo 😦  Notice typically all over this paragraph, that is because there aren’t really any knowns.

My first experience with Chemo –

I was blessed that Alaina was home from school over the weekend and didn’t have any classes back at IA State until 1:00, she was able to take me to my first chemo, she even went down to the starbucks kiosk for me and brought back not only coffee, but treats 🙂 especially liked the hummus and pretzels.  Gerry was able to stop by between cases and spend the end of the day with me and Deb (who was intrumental in getting Gerry and I together in 2014), stopped by and brought some great reading materials.  Thanks to all of you for helping me through my first chemo 🙂

  • Arrived at 8:30 for blood work
    • Prior to surgery I had been told that regardless of how the surgery came out, I would need to have chemo for a year because of the HER2 positive.  I elected to have a chemo port put in during my mastectomy.  The Chemo port is on my right chest.  The dark over the incision is still the skin glue, it will look better when the glue is off.

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    • When I was called in for blood work I was a little nervous, this would be the first time using my port…
    • First question, do you have the card that came with your port – me – deer in the headlights
    • Second question, do you know if you are saline or heparin flush – me – deer in the headlights
    • I made a quick call to the surgeon’s office and found out that it is saline flush, whew, who knew???
    • The nurse has a special needle that goes into the port –
      • Deep Breath
      • Punch – and yes, punch is the right word, as the needle punches into the port, it has a metal back, so you don’t need to worry about it punching through the port… lol

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  • A syringe of saline is injected into the port
  • Two vials of blood are then pulled from the port
    • First is thrown away, as it will have too much saline
    • Second is used to evaluate the blood prior to chemo
  • 9:00 – visit dr.
    • vitals
    • review blood results
    • Q&A
  • 9:30 – chemo starts
    • Since I was going to be receiving chemo all day I elected to be in a private room (as you can see it became my office) vs. one of the chairs in the main roomIMG_20160201_164716547
  • The first time you receive chemo (or at least my first time), they have slow drips and observation periods, my next chemo sessions will be cut by 3 hours 🙂
  • 5:15 – chemo ends

So, what were the main ingrediants to my chemo and their possible side effects –

  • We started with Steroids and Benydril to help my body adjust to the Chemo and then sequentially went through each of the following
  • Perjeta
    • Common Side Effects
      • Hair Loss
      • Diarrhea
      • Decreased white blood cells
      • Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
      • Rash
      • Fatigue
      • Nausea
      • Decreased appetite
  • Herceptin
    • Common Side Effects
      • Fevers/Chills
      • Pain at site of disease
      • Nausea
      • Shortness of breath
      • Headache
      • Dizziness
  • Taxotere
    • Common Side Effects
      • Decreased red and white blood cells
      • Hair Loss
  • Carboplatin
    • Common Side Effects
      • Decreased white blood cell and platelet counts
      • Hair Loss
      • Fatigue
      • Nausea and Vomiting

22 – 24 hours after chemotherapy

  • Neulasta – this is a shot to promote white blood cell development
    • Common Side Effects
      • Bone Pain
      • Nausea
      • Fatigue
      • Weakness
      • Fever

I had several medical staff and fellow cancer pals tell me that no matter what, stay on top of the anti-nausea medication.  I have found that to be very true, a couple times I have run over on time and almost lost my cookies.  It is easy to forget, when you are feeling fine, it makes you think maybe you don’t need to take it after all… WRONG!!! listen to those who have already tread that trail…  they are speaking from experience.  I am now setting the alarm on my phone to remind me when it is time to take the next tablet, better safe than sorry.

Will be signing off for now, thank you all for your support, I know that God has brought you into my life and I will always be eternally grateful for each of you.  May God’s Love go with each of you throughout your days and stand by you through all your journeys.

Til next time!

Cancer is a 4 letter word . . .

Good news / Bad news

Good News, my General Surgeon gave me a free pass, follow up scheduled in 6 months… the bad news, my Oncologist took that opportunity to schedule Chemo…  I start on Monday.

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I will be on an every three week cycle

  • First 6 cycles –
    • TCH (docetaxel/carboplatin/trastuzumab) + pertuzumab (if they can get insurance authorization)
  • For the remainder of the year –
    • trastuzumab (and hopefully pertuzumab if insurance will approve it)

The Oncologist gave me the three golden rules as my immune system is degraded by chemo.

  1. Don’t ever touch my face
  2. Don’t ever touch my face
  3. Breath through my nose (hope I don’t get a cold, I could suffocate… LOL)

Of course there are other nuggets

  1. Don’t go to public places during peak hours (avoid crowds)
  2. Wash hands frequently
  3. If flying, get up and walk around
  4. Consider wearing a face mask in public transportation… (does that include elevators?? “hold the door, I need to put on my face mask”  LOL)

What do i have to look forward to for first chemo –

    • Start at 8:30 with blood work
    • Meet with Dr.
    • Start Chemo at 9:30
      • the first time starting chemo each of the medications will be introduced separately.  This is to watch for any allergic reactions.
      • First chemo is anticipated 7 hours
      • Subsequent chemo under 2 hours
    • I will start losing my hair shortly after the first chemo with most of it leaving me before my second chemo.
      • I ‘think’ I am planning to have a head shaving party on Super Bowl Sunday, it will be 7 days after my chemo.  I don’t want to get to the point where I look down at my pillow in the morning and see piles of my hair… or look at my brush and see more hair in my brush than in my head… I do want to keep my hair 🙂  in a Ziploc bag, maybe I could have a wig of my own hair 🙂  Maybe my hair will grow back straight??  Maybe it will grow back a different color… Maybe I could research hydrangea color management and see if I can consume different minerals affect my hair coloration.  🙂  My dear friend Sally told me she went to a new salon and they had a ton of wigs, she found some blue ones and got one for each of us, she said she put it on and it was literally so funny she laughed all night.  Mine is so when I feel blue, I can put it on, look in the mirror and laugh and go on with my life. 🙂  THANK YOU SALLY!!!!

A month after the first 6 cycles I will be able to remove my expanders, put in the permanent implants and remove my chemo port.  Yeah!!!  I am already counting the days 🙂  I just found out that the permanent implants, for whatever reason, never maintain the same temperature as your body, which means they always feel cool… Not sure how I feel about having ‘cool perky boobs’, will have to wear an extra sweater.. LOL.  As I am writing this, my mind is wandering… when I wear my pearls, they absorb your body temperature and are warm to the touch.. why can’t they do the same thing with implants?  This will be a good invention for someone 🙂

The drugs that I will be taking have numerous side effects, the degree of each varies by individual. The amount of the drug they give you is based on your body weight, I am going to try to lose some weight  and talk them into taking out the weight for my ‘girls’ since they are expander and saline and shouldn’t be included in my body weight… 🙂 Wish me luck… lol

All I know, is that I NEVER want to hear about cancer again, I am planning to kick this!!!  And I am confident that with the Holy Spirit inside me I can do just that :-).

I want to take a moment to tell you about church last Sunday.  I have always believed in God, I have always had blind faith, but Sunday was the first time that I actually felt the Lord completely envelop my body. I was overcome with love, faith and emotion, absolutely convinced that I would never be on my journey alone.  It chokes me up, just writing about it, God truly is amazing, and He is with us always.  The really crazy thing, it wasn’t during the sermon, it was during the singing… or actually, maybe that makes more sense 🙂

Everything in life is mind over matter, so my mission… increase my mind and decrease my matter. 🙂

  • I am going to get back into regular meditation, it is so important, and I believe very healing, physically and mentally.
  • I am going to get back to exercising (within reason… yes, I do have a tendency to go overboard…)
  • It is o.k. to cry, shake it off and get back up (even when I feel like I am crying over nothing)
  • I will remove all negative influences from my life
  • I will find good in everything, no matter how bad it may seem
  • Continue range of motion
  • Work on short game 🙂

Weird note – when I drink something cold I can feel it throughout my chest, as if someone was spraying cold water across my chest wall!  I have decided that what is causing this is the sensitivity of the recently surgery traumatized tissue. of course there is NO medical support whatsoever to support this theory… lol, just a lay person thinking ‘what the heck’, now that is really weird, what could have caused it… LOL – jacked up temperature sensitivity 🙂

A continued thank you to all family and friends for your support, may God fill you with His love as you go through your day.

My journey with Breast Cancer

My journey started Sunday, December 6, 2015.

Note – everyone’s journey is unique, everyone’s cancer is unique, everyone’s treatment is unique. Listen to your care providers, they will know the best protocol for you. My prayers are with all who have cancer, have family or friends with cancer.

Gerry was on call, but it was one of those few times that we were actually able to lie in bed and talk about everything under the sun.  When you live with a general surgeon, it isn’t uncommon to have him perform a breast exam, which he was doing while we talked and laughed.  Then Gerry stopped and got serious, “there is a lump here i think you should have checked”.

I had to travel that week for work, a mammogram and ultrasound were scheduled for the following week when i returned 12/16/15.  I had been diligent about getting an annual mammagram and I knew that I had dense breasts (had been told several times), what I didn’t know, is that if you have dense breasts you should have extra testing, research this in your area.

My Mammogram and Ultrasound showed that there was definitely something that needed further investigating.  (Note to all – my lump wasn’t easily felt standing up, do your exams standing up and lying down)  A biopsy was performed for the following day 12/17/15. I also learned that typically a lump cannot be felt until it is at least 2 cm and by that time it has probably been around for 5 years, the cancer cells take a long time to split and grow. Crazy to think this cancer has been with me all this time and I had no idea. They say one of the worst things about breast cancer, is there are minial or no symptoms. Encourage all your friends to have regular mammograms and self exams, even when you think it could never happen to you.

I think that anyone that has received a diagnosis of breast cancer (or any cancer for that fact), will remember the date they received the news.
12/18/15 Gerry came home in the middle of the day and told me the news.  It was confirmed I had breast cancer.  Seriously, how was this possible… i had nursed, you weren’t supposed to get cancer if you nursed.  I worked out, I had a good diet, etc., how could this be happening to me???  This is only supposed to happen to other people… I suggested that perhaps they mixed my tests up with someone elses… that didn’t fly, they wouldn’t switch mammogram, and ultrasound, and biopsy 😦  I tried . . .

That night we told my daughters, 17 & 20, it is a scary thing telling your daughters that you have cancer.  Our emotions were running high, but we were putting our faith in God.

12/21/15 I was scheduled for a MRI.  The MRI is done on your stomach with your breasts pressed in their each compartment, it takes approx 45 minutes,  while you are receieving the MRI, they are running a fluid introveneously that helps them to spot the cancer.

12/22/15 I met with my general surgeon. I was told that I have an Infiltrating Ductal ER/PR negative HER2 positive breast cancer.  Only in the left breast, and at this time it doesn’t look like it is in the lymph nodes.  Pretty greek isn’t it… I was given my options – trying to remove with a quadrant surgery, followed with radiation and chemo, a mastectomy on the one affected breast, or a bi-lateral mastectomy (both breasts).  I opted for a nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy.  Thinking that even though I only had a 10% chance of developing cancer in the second breast, I didn’t want to have any worry, plus, I wanted a matching set.  🙂  What can I say, I will be perky til the day I die… LOL.  The mastectomy reduces the necessity of radiation (it would only be required if something more was found during surgery). My surgeon spoke to my oncologist who indicated that with my age, size of cancer and tumor receptor status, regardless of the outcome of the surgery, I would likely need chemo.  I elected to have a port inserted for the chemo during surgery.   I also decided to start breast reconstruction immediately.

12/23/15 I met with the plastic surgeon.  Measurements were taken, procedures were explained, I elected to go with a tissue expander, inserted during the mastectomy.  This means that the general surgeon removes all breast tissue, then the plastic surgeon follows by making an incision through the pectoral muscle and inserting an expander that is best described as a bladder that will be filled over the course of the next few months until it is to my original size.  The expander is very hard and filled with saline.  The plan was to fill on surgery day to 240 cc, then fill up to 520cc, which is over filling, then doing a surgery (at least 30 days post chemo) that will remove the expander and put in the permanent prostetic, which will feel much more normal.  I knew that I wanted to have removal and reconstruction the same time, the soonest calendars could be coordinated was 1/15/16 (another date I will probably never forget).

Now that i have filled you in on all the dates, let me tell you a little about myself.
I have always been the type of person that embraces life to it’s fullest,
I have blind faith in God that He will never give me anything I can’t handle,
But i wasn’t expecting this… it was quite surreal.  I was on an emotional roller coaster from 12/18 – 1/15 when i finally had my surgery.  Every day, wondering what they would find during surgery, would there be complications, would i come through surgery o.k., would they find that my body is full of cancer and on and on and on… One moment I would be fine, the next I would find myself an emotional reck.  I have been blessed with a truly wonderful support network of family, friends and co-workers.  God would always make sure, that just when i was feeling really down, He would send something my way to cheer me up and give me support.

I believe that I have been walking through a fog since 12/18 when i learned I have breast cancer.  Each day I feel alert and positive, but when i look back on yesterday, it feels like it is in a dream.  I know that your brain has ways that it helps to cope with stressful situations, I just pray that my brain keeps up the good work, my number one goal, Keep Faith and Keep Positive. 🙂  With God on my side, i know that all is possible.  And I know that God will ALWAYS be by my side.

12/29/15 My youngest daughter and I went out wig shopping and ordered one that we both thought looked pretty good.  the gentleman that helped us was phenomenal, they work specifically with cancer patients and were very helpful on what to expect and when, I will start losing my hair within 7 days of my first chemo!!!  wow, thought maybe it would take awhile.  I have decided that i don’t want to let it just fall out in fistfuls.  I am going to have a head shaving party, will figure out details when i know what my chemo schedule will be.

1/15/16 finally came.  My surgery was scheduled for noon.  I had to start fasting at midnight.  My mother and sister came and stayed with us the night before and took me to the hospital for pre-op.  Gerry met us there as he had a couple cases in the morning.  Prior to surgery there is a lot going on, meeting with the general surgeon, the plastic surgeon, the anesthesiologist, admissions, etc.  15 minutes prior to surgery they took me down to nuclear medicine to inject my breast with a nuclear tracing agent that passes through the lymphatics to the sentinel lymph node or nodes which are the first nodes a cancer will spread to.  The surgeon uses this information during surgery to know which nodes need to be sent to pathology to determine if the cancer is contained.  All i can say, the injection hurt like (&^*&%^*&%^%((*.  However, the pain was gone within 15 minutes.  My surgeon did the injection, his case before mine was running late and i was going to be starting probably an hour late.  Gerry, Mom and Julie were able to stay with me until they took me to surgery at 1:00.  Anita, an amazing friend and scrub nurse brought me a very soft cozy blanket while i was in pre-op.  Anita was off work, but stayed and was in the operating room during my surgery watching out for me. 🙂  an added level of comfort.

The plastic surgeon marked me up prior to surgery – it would be a very bad thing to have your breasts placed in the wrong place… lol nothing worse than having your cleavage off center… lol

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I was wheeled to the operating room just before 1:00.  The last thing i remember there is the anesthisiologist telling me they were giving me something to make me more comfortable.  Goodnight.  Then next thing i remember is waking up in recovery.  I was wheeled to recovery around 6:00. And to my room probably around 7:00.  I recall when i came to in recovery they asked where my pain level was from 1-10, I responded without hesitation, 12!!!  I was in  a lot of pain, especially on the right side. I guess I kept dozing off as they were working on the pain meds for me.  I heard someone say they gave me tylenol in my IV, I think that is when I started feeling better.  I also had a button I could push with morphine.  What I found out is that when i started taking the oral pain med, it actually worked better than the morphine.  Go for that as soon as you can. 🙂  But make sure you have something in your stomach with it. 🙂

On Surgery day, go to the hospital looking like you want to wake up 🙂  fix your hair, put on some makeup, it will help you feel better when you finally get to your room.  I am a firm believer, if you look like you feel good, you will feel good, and heal much quicker… mind over matter 🙂 Take things with you that are your good feeling comfort things 🙂

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I went into surgery for bi-lateral mastectomy, thinking that I would be able to keep both of my nipples, however, during the surgery it was discoverd through pathology that the cancer in my left breast had gone into the nipple and surrounding skin, it all had to be taken.  The plastic surgeon did a purse string closure that will ultimately be the center of my nipple.  The left nipple will be tattooed on when all chemo is complete and the permanent prosthetics are in place.  Note to self, never say never… haha, I had always said I will NEVER have a tattoo… lol, never dreamt I would have a tattoo of a nipple… lol

I had read several blogs as well as the American Cancer website and had expected to be heavily bandaged when i came out of surgery.  I also knew that I would have drains in each breast.  The local cancer center had reached out to me and would be brining me special cammisoles to take home that have pockets for the drains.  a definite must in my mind…

What i had – on the right breast – no bandage, and stitches only along the top of the nipple, easily hiding the scar.  a special clear coating (like super glue) over the stitches.  On the left breast – a square bandage max 2×2, very thin, just over the center.  Each breast had been filled to 240cc, so I actually had breasts, now, they are round and flat and very hard (about as hard as a shoulder), but they weren’t flat :-).  I had a drain coming out of the bottom exterior side of each breast.  The drains are actually stitched into place and then covered with a large 3×5 bandage.  I was able to shower before I went home!!!

My room had a sofa that was a futon.  Gerry stayed with me in the hospital.  I was there from friday night until sunday morning.
I know I was blessed to have so many praying for my healing.

Months ago before we learned that cancer was in the cards, we had purchased tickets for sunday night at the civic center.  As it turned out, we didn’t have anyone that could use the tickets.  So we went.  Gerry was able to get us a parking place close to the door, we went straight to our seats and stayed there during intermission.  It was great to be out, but with my pain meds i kept dozing off during a great play. 😦

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Tuesday after surgery I had lunch with a group of ladies called Amazing Women.  All of these ladies have had / do have cancer and it was wonderful talking to them and learning what to expect.  I highly recommend support groups of this sort.  A group of positive, like minded ladies helps immensely.  Get your support group as quickly as possible.

Tuesday I also recieved my final pathology report.  All margins are negative… YEAH!!!! That means that Radiation isn’t in the equation (i hope, i meet with the oncologist on Thursday).

Friday i met with the plastic surgeon, received 60cc more in each breast and had my drains removed!!! for the first time I was actually able to sleep on one of my sides, which is good for me because I am a side sleeper. with the expanders my breasts are still more flat than domed, but that will come along as they get filled more.  When the permanent prosthetics are put into place, they will go through the nipple scar on the right breast and will need to make a new incision under the left breast.

Bright side???  I will never need to wear a bra again for support… becuase the prosthetic is between the pec and the ribs, the pecs actually hold them firmly (and i mean firmly) in place.  🙂  I never realized how uncomfortable bras are until i don’t have to wear one… lol
I am going back to work this week, (1/25) i worked a little last week, but was very low on energy and didn’t get as much done as i had hoped. 😦
This Wednesday is my follow up appt with my general surgeon and Thursday is my appt with my oncologist.  It’s a very small world, i learned Sunday that my oncologist is the little neighbor boy… lol, God has brought really wonderful people into my path.
I have been prepped, that I may be having chemo for a year!!!! how can this be??? I will let you all know more as soon as I have more details.

Now, how have I been feeling – 9 days after surgery.

Physically….  better each day, for the last three days i have only been taking tylenol 🙂  I have been practicing range of motion and stretching as much as i can, however, i am still limited to under 10 lbs so need to take it easy.  I have to be careful not to do too much.  if you do, you could get too much fluid build up under the expander and possibly an infection, definitely don’t want to go there.  I have what i think are phantom pains and sensations.  For all of you moms out there that have ever nursed, you know the sensation of your milk letting down… I have that feeling at least 3 times a day even though I no longer have any breast tissue.  I get periodic sharp pains in the center of my breast, I think those are phantoms as well.  The tissue expanders have folds in them until they are completely inflated and the folds/creases can also cause discomfort. The breast skin is for the most part numb. The first week extremely tired, as if I had been running a marathon, however better each day. It can be exhausting just standing up, but that too gets better each day. When I went into the hospital I weighed 129, when I came home, I weighed 135… Seriously… where is the justice, I lose my girls and weigh more than I started? It was swelling water weight gain, after a week I was back down to 129. My internal thermometer is whacked. I go from hot to cold to freezing to boiling. Guess I should add, I am 58 years old. 🙂

Mentally….  I am taking one day at a time, the unknown is the part that is difficult to deal with. When will chemo start, how will my body react, how long will it last, what side effects will I have, and on and on…  I still have an emotional roller coaster going on.  One moment I am absolutely solid, the next moment, I am choking up and can’t even talk about what I am going through.

Gerry has been so incredibly supportive.  He has been there 110%, supporting me when I am feeling weepy, giving me just what I need, when I need it.  I can’t imagine a better partner.  I have had so many friends reach out offering help, so far, I haven’t needed to ask for help, but am afraid that may change when chemo starts.  I continue to pray for strength and healing.

Next update will be post surgeon and oncologist visits.  Keep a smile on your face and faith in your heart.