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Post-op update

Surgery was last Tuesday and I’m doing really well.

Prior to surgery it did take three different anesthetists five tries to get an IV in me. But, that’s fairly normal for me.

And the anesthetist that did my anesthesia was wonderful. As we discussed the severe nausea and vomiting I experienced after my mastectomy, he came up with a different plan for this surgery. He said that it was likely the gas they used once I was asleep that caused those reactions, so he would switch me to complete IV sedation with no gas. And he was correct! I woke up much more quickly than before and had zero nausea or vomiting! It was such a relief – especially considering the abdominal incisions that vomiting would have aggravated.

The surgeon was pleased with how text book the procedure was! She did have to separate my bladder and uterus (the bladder had healed into my uterus as the c-section was healing) so that she could get to the area where my ovaries and fallopian tubes were, but she said there were no complications or other unexpected extras.

I did stay in the hospital overnight, but that was mostly due to not being able to get the pain under control for a while. We managed to get it under control late that evening and I’ve been mostly pain free since! It’s nice to not need pain medication!

Healing has been as expected – while not major abdominal surgery like a c-seciton, it was definitely abdominal in nature. I’ve been very sore in the places expected, and moving too quickly, laughing, coughing, and sneezing are still quite uncomfortable. I did have to go in on Friday for some minor fix-ups. The incision in my belly button needed to be re-glued because the glue had partially failed. There was also a spot on my cervix that had been lacerated by a clamp, and though it had been coated in silver nitrate during surgery, it was bleeding again.

Since Friday, I am much less sore and improving [noticeably] daily. I even drove for the first time Sunday afternoon – which also means I left the house alone for the first time since surgery!!

Surgically induced menopause can be quite a bit different than the slower, natural version. I haven’t had many huge side effects yet, though the doctor did warn me to expect them within a week. I have started the new long-term reoccurence reduction medication and my dosage of thyroid medication has been altered in anticipation of those changes. I’ve had a bit of brain fog most afternoons that I wasn’t having before, but I’ve found some essential oils and natural remedies that are helping with that. I am also having more migraines than I have had since chemo ended. Both things are related to the sheer shifts in hormones in my body, so they may take a bit of time to level out.

I am also, once again, on a month long stint of daily blood thinner injections, which are annoying, but necessary.

Overall, I’m doing pretty well. Feeling strong enough to participate in life and the kids haven’t had to endure too much down time from me.

 

Surgery Again, Tomorrow

Another surgery is upon us.

Tomorrow I’ll be having my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Hopefully all will go as planned and it will be a simple, straightforward surgery with a fairly easy recovery.

An oophorectomy, under normal circumstances, is a short, laparoscopic procedure. However, as with any surgery, there is always a risk of complications. With this surgery there is also an unknown – there is no way to tell prior to surgery if either of my ovaries may have healed into my uterine wall during c-section recovery. If this has happened it will necessitate a complete hysterectomy with the added removal of my uterus.

And, you know me… there are the added risk factors I personally bring to the operating room – the biggest being my clotting disorder.

I am very comfortable with the surgeon who will be performing this surgery. She has read all of the notes and spoken to my previous surgeron and will take the same precautions he did.

We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for me and all involved.

*The hospital I’ll be in has very poor cell/data reception and the wi-fi so slow that my phone can never connect. Michael will post some updates on Facebook, but I probably won’t have any internet access until I’m home.

Two Months of Hair Growth

Just a little hair update!

My hair is definitely growing and it’s thickening nicely. I did end up losing the remainder of my original eyelashes. I think that was due to the natural cycle of those hairs rather than effects from chemo because the new eyelashes I told you about last month haven’t fallen out. They are continuing to grow and thicken each day. And I am finally seeing some eyebrow hairs starting to come in!!

As of the March 1 photo it had been 10.5 weeks since my last chemo treatment.

 

 

The Logistics of a Breast Cancer Journey

When I say logistics, I’m talking about the sheer amount of information that suddenly came flying at us on that crazy day back in August when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The surgeon who gently and compassionately told me of this diagnosis gave me one very helpful, tangible piece of advice that stuck with me that day. He told me to go out and get myself a fresh, pretty notebook/journal and make that the ONLY place I write anything having to do with breast cancer and what would ensue.

I did exactly that when I left his office. I really like this Studio C line of notebooks by Carolina Pad and already owned several of them, so I went in search of a new one. I chose this cute one and began dumping my brain in it that very day. Michael was actually away in San Antonio when I received this news, but was able to fly home several days early and arrived home the next day. That was a very difficult 24 hours…

In this notebook, I write a variety of things. I use it as a journal, or write snippets of feelings and things I don’t want to forget about the emotional aspect of this journey. I write questions that need to be answered, or notes for information I need to find. I use it to keep track of every single phone call I have. I also use it to write down symptoms, and when I need to take extra medications that have different intervals, I write down each dose and the time, I also include any OTC meds, oils, or other treatments to alleviate those symptoms. I’ve written down hospital packing lists, childcare schedules, and research notes.

This one tip has probably been the most beneficial of the practical tips I have received. Truthfully, based on my personality and affinity for keeping notes, I would have eventually come to this realization on my own, but in those first days I really couldn’t think about much of the practical and am so grateful he gave me this advice. I feel so much better having all of these notes in one place and easily accessible.

The next thing I did was purchase a brand new planner (I haven’t been able to get on board with digital planners yet) – it was time for a new one anyway since we were about to start a new school year, but this one would be different than past planners. I had much more specific needs this time.

I actually bought the same planner for myself that I had gotten for the kids’ school planners. I found it at either Walmart or Target (it’s by Blue Sky), but it has been perfect for my needs. Because I’m a smidge OCD and would also be keeping the schedules for the entire family in this planner, I came up with a color coding system that has worked well. My appointments are in pink, kids’ commitments in orange, entire family in green, and blue was left for misc. (Michael’s work trips and such). My favorite little hack is so very simple, but has saved me a little brain space – once I’ve worked out the details, along with each of my appointments, in parenthesis, I note who will be taking care of the children! I don’t have to look anywhere else to find that information. Once I’ve added that little orange note, I know I’ve sorted out childcare for that appointment and no longer have to worry if I’ve gotten it covered.

I also purchased a large wall hanging calendar for our office/school room. I keep this updated with the same items that are in my portable planner. This lets anyone in the family know what’s going on at any given time.

The last thing I have done is to purchase a new (also cute!) 3 ring binder and matching divider tabs. In this binder, I keep everything. Due to my additional complicating health issues, I currently have several different doctors.  This would be different for everyone, but my current sections are:

  • Emergency Room – for all the paperwork pertaining to the allergic reaction I had
  • Genetics – genetic testing results and notes from the genetic counselor
  • GI – pertaining to my ulcerative colitis
  • Labs – all lab results that don’t have another home somewhere else in the binder
  • Mastectomy – surgery notes, hospital discharge, research
  • Oncology – anything that I’ve received from the oncology office
  • Oophorectomy – pertaining to the upcoming ovary surgery
  • Pathology – all pathology reports from biopsies and surgeries
  • Prosthesis – yes, there really is such a thing as a breast prosthesis – I have a post planned about it
  • Radiation – radiation consult and doctor’s notes
  • Research – all of my research notes
  • TriCare – this is my health insurance. This section includes all of my referrals, claims, and bills
I take my backpack everywhere I go – especially to all medical appointments. Even if I just run out to grab a coffee or pick up a movie from Redbox, it’s there in the passenger seat. This means that I never have to be without my notes if I receive a phone call, because it’s no fun playing phone tag with a doctor simply because you forgot a question you needed to ask or didn’t have your calendar and needed to schedule an appointment – I learned this the hard way the ONE day I forgot my backpack.

I know this post may seem a bit overloaded, especially if you aren’t facing something so emotionally engulfing, but this system has helped me so much I just had to share. Once I worked out the system that would work best for me, the upkeep has been minimal, but the reward has been amazing. I don’t constantly feel like I need to remember everything. This system functions as an extension of my brain. The only things I truly have to keep in my head are the important things that take actual mental capacity.

 

Things I Miss About the Lower 48

When we first heard that we would be moving to Anchorage, Alaska, I had very mixed emotions. Every person that I know who has lived here has absolutely loved it, so that was very promising. But, I wondered what I would truly be facing. I understood the weather challenges, but I didn’t really know what Anchorage would be like.

Would it be like a step back in time to a city that doesn’t have all the amenities and essentials I was accustomed to, or would it be just like any other small-ish city we have lived in?

Truthfully, we have been pleasantly surprised. We have pretty much every sort of major retailer you would expect (including a disproportionate amount of sporting goods/outdoors shops!). There are plenty of family friendly attractions, and loads of free or inexpensive outdoor resources for all seasons.

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of things I miss from the lower 48 and things that are unique and wonderful about Alaska.

What I Miss About the Lower 48:

  • We don’t eat out frequently, but I do miss the comforts of having some of my favorite chain restaurants, such as Panera, Chick-fil-a, Five Guys, Chipotle, The Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang, and Cracker Barrel, available.
  • Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffees (this was specific to southern Ohio)
  • Affordable groceries
  • Aldi
  • Large, full scale homeschool convention with mega exhibit hall
  • Traveling anywhere within a several state region relatively easily. Traveling from Alaska to most places takes 10+ hours by plane and is very expensive.

Moose on the side of the road on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, December, 2014

What I Enjoy about Alaska that is unique to other parts of the US:

  • The extremes in daylight and dark hours
  • Coffee – really good coffee, too! Roadside coffee stands and coffee shops are abundant here. Anchorage has 2.8 coffee shops for every 10,000 people. Per capita, that’s more than any other city in the country – including Seattle!
  • The plethora of unique outdoor activities (Iditarod, ice sculptures in the park, outdoor ice skating, winter outdoor sports, SO many hiking/camping options, glaciers, and so much more)
  • The Aurora Borealis (yes, it is sometimes visible in the far northern tier of the lower 48, also)
  • Interesting weather patterns (we have lived in a variety of climates and the hoarfrost and low lying frozen fog banks here astound me)
  • Animals in the wild that you don’t see many other places. I’m not talking about your average squirrel, groundhog, raccoon, deer, fox, etc., we have seen moose, wolves, sea lions, coyotes, swans, porcupines, beluga whales, humpback whales, sea otters, bears, magpies, salmon, ravens. There’s also the potential to see musk ox, caribou, elk, other whales, and probably more that I’m forgetting.
  • The freshest sushi ever!
  • The fishing is exactly what you have ever heard it is like in Alaksa!
  • The time current time difference (it changes with daylight savings) between us and Michael’s family in Australia is 20 hours. This means that when we travel over there our bodies only have to adjust four hours. This is incredible. It was devastating to our children in 2013 when we came home to the eastern time zone (flying east is always the hardest). We were adjusting 16 hours and it was the most difficult jet lag our children have ever faced.

While I don’t think I could live here long term, a 2-4 year assignment here feels pretty good! We have only been here 9 months and I already understand the love everyone I know who has ever lived here expresses. It’s a very unique place and has so much to offer, especially if you have an affection for the outdoors. You should come visit!

Races and Another Surgery

The Hair Situation

January 1, 2015

The hair on my head has been a hot topic around my house lately! It is growing quite well and there are noticeable changes every day!

At the turn of the year, this is how I looked.

There was a little hair there, but I had shaved off all the scraggly bits so it [...]

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