Friday, April 30, 2010

I made it

After four hours of surgery, a hospital stay, an excruciatingly painful ride home from the hospital, and a revisit for fluids and IV meds/painkillers two days later, I am officially on the mend.

Brian has been nothing short of amazing tending to my every need. My family has really pulled through, bringing delicious food and gracing me with their smiles and hugs. As the days go by, I'm experiencing less pain and more rest, less stress and more peace. The tumor is gone...while we wait for the pathology report with the details, I can close my eyes with the comforting thought that it is no longer present in my body.

"So damned easy to say that life's so hard.
Everybody's got their share of battle scars.
As for me, I'd like to thank my lucky stars
that I'm alive, and well.

It'd be easy to add up all the pain
and all the dreams you've sat and watched go up in flames.
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain,
but not me...I'm alive.

And today you know that's good enough for me.
Breathing in and out's a blessing, don't you see?
Today's the first day of the rest of my life.
And I'm alive, and well.
I'm alive, and well."

--Kenny Chesney/Dave Matthews

Here's to health and love, and LIVING!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


It's been almost 8 months since my diagnosis. The time between hearing the C-word and now has been both a blessing and a burden. I've definitely had a lot of time to come to terms with it; time to grieve my loss, time to be angry, time to question, time to reflect. But now, it's time to move on.

While I'm anxious for tomorrow, I'm also relieved. I'm ready for this next step in my treatment. I'm ready for all of the cancerous waste to be gone and to start fresh.

Please pray for me. Pray that the chemo worked its nasty magic and got every last cancer cell, for that is my best chance for cure. Pray that my heart will remain calm, and that I will wake up peacefully and recover fully. Pray for Brian...he is grieving, too. Pray for our strength, and for our healing.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back to reality

Just a quick post this time...I've got lots of laundry and house-cleaning to do before Monday!

Our trip was absolutely wonderful! We saw some beautiful scenery, drank lots of really yummy wine and ate delicious food (the scale reading this morning proved it!) I'll post some photos and highlights over the weekend...just wanted to let my faithful and supportive followers know that I so appreciate all of your kind words, thoughts and prayers.

More from me soon...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And just when I thought I was doing okay...

I must start out by saying that yesterday was the first Monday since January 4th that I did not get poked with a single needle, have blood drawn, or receive chemo (excluding the two national holidays, in which case all of that fun ensued on a Tuesday.) I got to celebrate by spending the day with a good friend from college and her absolutely adorable daughter, capped off with a delicious Mexican dinner to include homemade tortillas that I love so much. It was a great day.

This morning as I was preparing for my walk/run, it suddenly dawned on me: less than two weeks until my surgery. Being in San Diego and keeping busy has fairly successfully kept my mind off of the inevitable...haven't had too much time to dwell on it. I grabbed my iPod, and realized that I hadn't yet listened to the Health Journeys guided imagery meditation that Brian downloaded for me to help me prepare for successful surgery.

I finished up my exercise and headed out to the beach. Found a place away from others, and started the meditation. The guided imagery part is only about 20 minutes long, and apparently really good at uncovering buried emotions. I say this because it only took me about 2 minutes of listening before I started crying. This wasn't a full-on sob-fest (that happened later,) just tears down my face for the remainder of the track. I wasn't really sure where the tears were coming from; it's not as thought I haven't thought long and hard about this surgery (remember from a previous post...I think about it a lot.) Part of the guided imagery talked about letting go; about feeling connected to the bones and blood and muscle and tissue as my body works to heal; about appreciating my body for the steadfast companion it has been to me for as long as I've been alive.

And that's when it hit me. I've been angry at my body. I feel like it has failed me. I did all the right things. I exercised, maintained a healthy weight, ate tons of blueberries and other nutritious, organic food way before it was the popular thing to do. I'm 30 years old. My body is supposed to be gearing up for growing babies, not tumors.

After I had a good cry, I tried as hard as I could to think positively about this body toward which I'd (unknowingly) harbored so much resentment. I can still walk (running isn't pretty, but I'll get there!) I can see and hear and smell and taste and laugh. Besides losing my hair during chemo, my body did amazingly well with very few of the horrible side affects that afflict others.

Good thing I listened to that guided imagery when I did: I now have 13 days to think positively about my body and prepare, both physically and emotionally, for a marathon healing process.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I did it!!!

After 18 rounds spanning 7 months, I'm officially DONE with chemo! Yay, yay, YAY!!!!

Leaving the hospital was bittersweet. I'm so happy to be done with chemo, but will miss my great oncologist and the awesome nursing staff who took fantastic care of me while I've been going through the biggest challenge of my life.

They even gathered in the chemo room and presented me with a Way To Go certificate for finishing! Here are a couple of photos of the day...

That last photo was taken in the exact same spot at the hospital as a photo I took before my very first treatment on September 30th, 2009. At the time, the leaves on the trees were orange and I still had all of my hair. My chemo treatment shadowed the seasons perfectly. My hair fell out just as the trees lost their leaves. During the first few days of winter, I was at my worst...I had lost weight, and low red blood cells left me looking pale and weak. My hair started to grow back just as the flowers emerged from the ground. And now, as the trees sprout their new leaves, I am finishing chemo with a new lease on life.

I am looking forward to spending some time traveling with Brian before my surgery in three weeks. Stay tuned for the next phase in my recovery process...

Thanks so much for all of your prayers, support, and love.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Game on!

After six hours and four doctors yesterday, plus tons of questions and lots of great answers, I now have an official plan for surgery.

(My description below might be too graphic for some. If you're one of those people, stop reading!)

I am lucky that the tumor had no skin involvement, so I am a candidate for a skin-sparing bilateral mastectomy. Since I had lymph node involvement, I will also be having a full axillary dissection on my right side. The surgeon will cut around my areola, remove it and remove my breast tissue through the incision, which will result in a smaller scar than is common in a traditional radical mastectomy. I will also have a small incision in my armpit to facilitate the lymph node removal.

The plastic surgeon will then place tissue expanders (temporary, fillable implants) underneath my pectoral muscle on each side, using an Alloderm (synthetic tissue) patch to insure that the implant is completely covered. He will fill the tissue expanders with saline to keep the preserved skin stretched. So I will wake up with two breast mounds, which I like much better than the idea of waking up completely flat chested. I will go to the plastic surgeon's office once or twice before starting radiation for a saline fill, and will then resume fills until I get to my desired size once my skin has healed from the radiation.

A lot of plastic surgeons do not recommend implants in patients who need radiation. The failure rate is higher (specifically in women who undergo full radical mastectomies) as radiated tissue does not have the ability to stretch like normal tissue. However, since I'm young and am having a skin-sparing, my plastic surgeon thinks I'll do fine.

This is a study I found from 2009 where the patients had immediate/delayed skin-sparing mastectomies with Alloderm followed by radiation. The results are very promising!

If I'm an exception (as I've proven to be throughout this process!) I'll move on to more invasive procedures like the IGAP or SGAP. But for now, I'm happy with my reconstruction decision.

Happy Easter to everyone. Count your blessings!