Wednesday, May 19, 2010


That's Navy speak for "nothing to report." For me, that's kind of a good thing; for the blog, not so much!

I had my post-op check up with my surgeon last Friday, as well as an appointment with my oncologist. My oncologist was seriously overjoyed at my fantastic, complete response to chemo. Since the normal course of events after a cancer diagnosis is surgery-chemo-radiation, oncologists very rarely get to see chemo's full fighting power, as surgery removes most (hopefully all) of the cancer and chemo plays clean up. She described my complete response to chemo as a Grand Slam in the oncology world!

In a couple of days, I have my first physical therapy appointment. I'm really looking forward to improving my range of motion, particularly in my right arm. I have some signs of slight Axillary Web Syndrome under my right arm where I had my lymph node dissection. This condition is pretty common, and easily correctable through special massage and stretching.

I'm also having my first saline fill on Friday. I've heard it can get pretty uncomfortable, but is pretty cool to watch as my chest grows right before my very eyes! I'll be sure to report back.

Be Well,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A collective thank you

It's been a little over eight months since my diagnosis. During that time, I have been treated, consoled, hugged, prayed for. I've been examined, imaged, poked and prodded and cut into (all with good intentions, of course!) I've been touched by so many people...this is definitely an inconclusive list.

First, I thank God; for this test that He just knew I, for some reason totally unbeknownst to me, had the strength to pass.

I thank my husband...really, that word seems so insignificant for all that he has done for me. For giving up an important job to drive me lots of miles so that I may be injected with toxic chemicals that left me sick and exhausted, and for picking up my slack around the house because of it. For making me laugh when I felt like crying, and for kissing my tears when I did cry. For so lovingly and tenderly emptying my surgical drains, changing my bandages, and rearranging my pillows. For loving me more now than ever before, and for the million times throughout this process you've told me that I'm beautiful. I can't imagine going through this journey with anyone else but you holding my hand.

For my parents: for stopping whatever it was that was going on in your life in September and flying Mom to Hawaii to help me pack up for my move when I was a mess. For opening your guest room for a month until our stuff arrived in Washington and we could move in to our own home (and helping us unpack.) For driving me to countless appointments, including my first round of chemo, and sitting by my side as we, together, waded through the complicated medical jargon that is included in a serious diagnosis such as cancer. For showering me with love, concern and affection...I'm a very lucky daughter.

For my sister and brother-in-law, who have taken on the challenge to walk 60 miles in my name, and have raised nearly $5000 for breast cancer. For being there at the hospital during my surgery, and the many visits they've paid and love that they've offered. I'm so blessed to have a close relationship with my sister, and am so grateful I have been able to go through this in the shadow of her love and support.

For my extended family and friends: you were there at the airport (at the gate, even!) to greet me at the start of what's been a long process. I can't think of a better way to feel more love and encouragement than that! For all of your Facebook messages, visits, and meals, and all means more to me than you'll ever realize...everyone should be so lucky to have such an amazing family. For Kathy, my breast cancer guru, who called me because she knew I wouldn't call her...who reached out to me and told me what to expect because she'd been there before, for lovingly and compassionately shaving my head when my hair was falling out, for trimming my wig to be appropriate for my uniform, and giving me my first post chemo haircut.

For my medical team: the doctors who studied long and hard to be the experts in this horrible--and too common--disease; who carefully and knowledgeably devised the best treatment plan for my situation. For the surgeons who meticulously removed harmful tissue from my body and sewed me back together. For the chemists and pharmacists who invented the chemotherapy that destroyed the tumor that threatened my health, and developed medications so that I wouldn't feel quite so terrible from its toxic side affects. For the nurses at MAMC who so lovingly administered that chemo, who made sure I was comfortable and wrapped me up in blankets and cheered for me on my last day there.

For my employer and boss...the military isn't always the easiest life, but this is one situation where being a veteran has proved invaluable. I've had state of the art medical care and have not paid a single penny--other than Seattle parking fees--for it. That's something to be extremely grateful for! Thank you to my boss in Hawaii for seeing that moving me to Washington, while not the traditional way of dealing with a limited duty situation, was the best option for me. Thank you to my new boss for giving me all of the time off I needed to rest, recover and get healthy. Thank you for cutting Brian's tour in the Middle East short and moving him to Washington with me. For Brian's boss giving him time off to drive me to 18 rounds of chemo, tons of medical appointments, and three weeks at home to help me recover from surgery.

Thank you to everyone out there praying for me, encouraging me and supporting me. Thank you to all the women who have gone on this journey before me. Knowing that you have made it through all of these milestones has helped me feel not quite so lonely.

I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but am grateful beyond words that I had each and every one of you on my side...I am a stronger, better woman because of it.

With so much love and gratitude,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Put your party hats on!

My surgeon called me today to share my pathology report. The chemotherapy did its job and I had a pathologically complete response!!!

This means that no more disease was found in the breast tissue, nor in the 28 lymph nodes they removed! My surgeon said that there was evidence of prior disease in 4 lymph nodes and significant fibrosis (scar tissue) at, but not in, my chest wall.

These results are the absolute best case scenario for my situation and my best chance for cure.

I'm not drinking this Cinco de Mayo because of my pain meds, but if you are, tip one back and toast for me...this is definitely reason to celebrate!!!

Thank you all so very much for all of your support and prayers...they clearly worked!

Feeling SO blessed...

Monday, May 3, 2010

An uneventful trip to the doctor

I'm at exactly a week post-op today. The only two trips I've made out of the house have been to seek medical attention. Needless to say, it's been a pretty uneventful seven days!

My right surgical drain had reached its criteria for removal: less than 30 cc's of output over 24 hours for two consecutive days. However, I have been concerned with the swelling on that side, specifically because it's the side of my axillary node dissection and I worry about lymphedema. My doctor didn't seem too worried, and chalked up the swelling to surgery. It makes chest underwent a pretty significant remodel one short week ago. I suppose some swelling is both inevitable and understandable. So I will keep both of my drains in until at least my appointment on Friday.

Brian has been doing an absolutely amazing job taking care of my every need. He's lovingly and patiently washed, drained, and redressed my incisions several times a day. He's readjusted my pillows, given me my medicine, brought me my meals, washed my hair, filled my water bottle, dressed me, gone out of his way in the car to avoid the bumpy roads...I could go on and on. I'm so blessed to have him by my side through all of this.

Thank you for all of your love and support as I battle through this. Many of you have sent cards, brought meals or stopped by for a visit. Many others support me by praying or sending good thoughts my way. I appreciate it all.