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Home and Doing Well

Going home!

I had planned to update you while I was still in the hospital, but I had ZERO cell signal and the wi-fi was so slow I could never get it to connect.

Surgery was a success! The surgeon was able to remove all breast tissue and there was only ONE lymph node affected. He was able to locate that one and remove it. Then the radioactive test revealed no other signal, so that means he got the correct node out!

I had a very rough time following surgery. I’ve had surgeries before, but have never been under general anesthesia for more than about 30 minutes. This surgery took about 3 hours. I had a very hard time getting the anesthesia out of my system so that I could wake up. It took nearly 3 hours for me to wake up enough for the nurses to be comfortable with my situation. I was also VERY sick as I was waking up. I had severe nausea and was vomiting from the effects of the anesthesia. It was all around a rough day because being sick when you’re barely conscious is hard. My blood pressure was also very low, so most movement would make me incredibly dizzy and nauseated again. Getting out of bed around 6 pm for the first time made me sick all over again – even though we went very slowly.

The vomiting and severe nausea (even with all the nausea meds they could give me) also made it so that I couldn’t eat or drink, which definitely didn’t help my blood pressure problem.

I was finally able to eat around 9 pm and that helped quite a bit and I progressively got better. I was able to drink plenty during the night, but my blood pressure remained very low until around mid-morning Wednesday.

Around mid-morning Wednesday, just after the surgeon came to talk to me, I got sick again… However, after another dose of nausea meds, it was as if all the effects from the anesthesia had finally worn off and I improved dramatically. So much so, that when the surgeon came back to see me in the early afternoon, he said I could go home!

We arrived home around 5 pm on Wednesday and I am doing really well. I was able to sleep in my own bed last night and actually slept pretty well, considering.

I am having very little surgical pain and have been able to keep that pain under control with essential oils, rather than taking the narcotics that have so many side effects. I am actually having more back and neck soreness than any other pain. Hospital beds are notorious for being uncomfortable (WHY???) and due to the nature of the surgery I had, I am not holding my body in the correct positioning which is also causing soreness.

I’ve been able to find some more comfortable positions at home and have been able to use heat, massage, and essential oils to help relieve some of that soreness throughout today.

Overall, I’m doing really well. Taking things slowly, enlisting lots of help from Michael and the kids, and generally just relaxing.

Maybe in a couple of days I’ll update you on all of my glamorous home post-op care.

Surgery Tomorrow

Interestingly, I’m not very nervous about the surgery itself. I’m very comfortable with my surgeon and the quality of care I will receive in the hospital I will be in, so I feel like I’m in good hands. I’m not even really worried about the physical recovery.

I am, however, starting to wonder what it will all be like when the surgery is complete…

I’m going to be quite frank with you and tell you that I have no clue how I’m going to handle this next step in the journey. I know there are so many women who have endured this and I know that in the end I’ll be fine. But I don’t know what it’s like to live life (even if it’s temporary) without one of my breasts. I don’t know what that feels like physically or emotionally. I don’t know what that looks like. I imagine I’ll have a bit of a difficult time with the whole ordeal. There may even be a bit of a grieving process.

Obviously, my brain knows that this is the right choice, and it’s definitely not going to kill me to be missing this body part. But this has been a difficult aspect to this journey.

Your continued prayers are appreciated.

Update for local friends: Thank you for your continued willingness to help us out. At this point, I think we are covered with everything we need for the coming week. We have childcare worked out and meals are being provided. House is clean and laundry is done, too!

 

On Being the Receiver

Being on the receiving end of help is quite humbling.

The last few years of our lives have been interlaced with military separations and medical situations that have put me in a position where I have been the one receiving help from others.

It has been such a huge learning experience for me. Asking for and accepting help from friends has never been something I’m good at. It’s quite difficult for this very (too?) independent wife and mom. At times, it feels like a sign of weakness. I know no one really has it all together, but there have been times in these last few years where it has felt like all of my untogetherness has been out there on display. I know, that in reality, it’s nothing like that. In truth, you can’t plan for when a medical situation will arise while your husband is away on a deployment or long military school. And you certainly can’t plan for cancer to sneak up on you.

Living so far from family has been one of the hardest parts for me. Though we live our military life by choice (knowing fully the consequences of those choices) I do sometimes envy those who live a mere few miles from their family members. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I could just drop the kids off with a family member, but I can’t.

As humbling as it has been, friends have been the ones we’ve relied on to help us through these difficult situations. And, wow, we have some amazing friends! If I were to try to go into detail of all the situations where friends have been there to offer childcare, meals, yard work, errands, or other ways of support, I would surely leave someone out. But, this is for you – those of you who were in Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Ohio and ever helped us with anything, we appreciate it! You are setting a wonderful example – not only for your kids, but ours as well. Our children remember your kindness. They remember you taking care of them and how you treated them. Thank you for loving them. I’m sure I told you at the time, and probably even sent you a thank you note, but I want you to know that your kindness and love for our family has not been forgotten.

And, to those of you in Alaska helping us through this new journey – you are appreciated. I wish I had better or more eloquent words to express my gratitude for what you are doing for us. There’s no way I would feel as calm about facing cancer head on without you. You are caring for our children, providing our meals, offering to do anything we need, and praying for us. We are sincerely grateful for you.

 

Not Chemo, Week 3 - a Drastic Change in My Treatment

This cancer diagnosis hasn’t only brought with it a roller coaster of emotions. It has also included an ever changing treatment plan. And it seems that treatment plan is changing again.

I told you in the beginning of this journey that I have several other medical conditions. One of those is ulcerative colitis. I will spare you the gross details, but you’re welcome to look it up if you are unfamiliar. Telling you that it’s similar to Crohn’s might convey enough to you. Anyway, the diagnostic process and then learning that I have breast cancer caused a whole lot of upset in my body.

An ulcerative colitis flare-up was at the top and most severe of that list of physical upsets. Between all of my natural remedies and the medications my GI doctor put me back on, I began to see improvement. With that improvement came a cancer treatment plan. Chemo (4-6 cycles, depending on a few factors), surgery, hormone therapy. The stability of knowing how we were going to proceed was great.

When I began chemo 3 weeks ago, I was several weeks into the healing process for getting my ulcerative colitis under control. I had stopped losing weight and was feeling great. My treatment team agreed that the chemotherapy drugs should help even further since autoimmune diseases are known to go into a state of remission during chemo. I was hopeful that this would be the case and the only side effects I would be dealing with would be all the known chemo related ones.

Well, wouldn’t you know that my body rarely reacts to these kinds of things in the expected way. I’m always the problem patient, and this experience would be no different.

Remember me telling you about my mouth problems? Well, those weren’t the only ulcer type problems I had as a result of chemo. My colon spazzed out again and I had another setback.

After many conversations with all of my different doctors, and the team presenting my case before the local cancer discussion board, it has been decided that, for the time being, chemo will be put on hold (I’ll tell you about the new treatment plan in a bit) – even though I am now back to the same place I was before chemo started. The thought process behind this is that another cycle of chemo could prove even worse and very detrimental to my overall health. Ulcerative colitis can be very serious and, if it gets out of control, could lead to very serious colon complications and all breast cancer treatment being halted. We don’t want cancer treatment to be halted because we know that my tumor grows quickly and there is the potential for it to spread/metastasize. We don’t want that.

So, after a lengthy meeting with the surgeon this morning, we have decided that to give my colon more time to heal and my body time to rest before I have more chemo, I’ll be having surgery SOON.

I’ll be having a single (left side) mastectomy next Tuesday, October 21. Whew!

In truth, we’ve kind of expected a mastectomy all along, so that part hasn’t really been such a shock. Michael and I have also had about a week to wrap our brains around the real possibility that this would probably be the next step in treatment for me, so we’re doing fairly well with all of it. I’m obviously still wavering with my emotions and I’m sure that will continue.

I know this is the correct treatment plan and I’m definitely comfortable with the surgeon, so I know I’ll be in good hands.

We would ask that you please continue to hold us up in prayer. Please remember not only our little family, but everyone who is involved in the treatment and care I’ll be receiving, babysitters, and all of those friends and family members who are contributing time and money to helping us through this.

* I promise that later on I’ll tell you more about the long term plans (healing, chemo, reconstruction, more healing, etc.). There’s more to the story, but for now, this is really all I can manage to think through without ending up with way too much on my mind.

Wigs, Hats, and Headwraps, Oh My!

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After receiving several questions yesterday, I realized I should address the alternative head wear options I now have.

The biggest question I’ve received has been “Is a wig an option?” The answer is yes. In fact, I took that photo above on Tuesday evening when I was out purchasing a wig! * Bonus: my insurance will reimburse me for it!

I’m not quite ready to show it to you yet because I haven’t finished fitting it and making the necessary adjustments, but in time, I will!

I’m not sure how often I’ll wear it, and at this point, my scalp is still too sore, but having it as an option is definitely helpful.

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I have also received several very soft, crocheted hats from a long time family friend back home in Florida.

In addition, I have all the other hats and headbands I would normally wear in winter. And am open to picking up a cute headwrap if I find one!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support as we continue along this never before traveled path.

The Emotional Effects of Hair Loss

I can honestly say to you that having a bald head at any point in my life never crossed my mind until less than 2 months ago. Now that I’m really and truly in the thick (or thin, really!) of it, I wanted to share with you what it has been like for me. I [...]

Chemo, Week 2

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It’s wonderful to be feeling normal for now! Other than migraines, which I’ve always dealt with, all chemo side effects have subsided for this treatment cycle.

I truly struggled with the mouth problems and am thankful to know the approximate cycle of the intensity. I’ll be a little more prepared next time.

My next treatment is the [...]

Fundraiser

What a journey this has already been.

I am grateful that we have a health insurance plan that is as comprehensive as it is. Unfortunately, even with that insurance plan, we have learned that there are some expenses that won’t be covered in regards to my medical care.

Not only are there medical expenses that we hadn’t [...]

Chemo, week 1

I find that I’m slacking updating here. After I update on Facebook, I tend to forget there are those of you that are following along here because we aren’t friends on Facebook, or you don’t use Facebook. Sorry for the lag.

I had my first chemo infusion on Tuesday of last week. It’s not [...]

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I never intended for this blog to end up like this. I wanted more than to just be updating you on my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be working in much  more than that in the weeks and months to come.  We have friends and family all over the world and [...]

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