Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Christmas from me to you...

This year, we're not sending out Christmas cards.  We're not doing our annual "The Schneider Family in Review" photo book for the grandparents/great-grandparents.  There are two main reasons: 1) I simply don't have the energy to do it and 2) I really don't want to look back at this year as "The Schneider Family - Cancer Edition".  It's not like this year isn't worth remembering or that I don't want to celebrate kicking cancer's bully ass, but I don't really need a pictorial.  Not as it relates to spreading goodwill and good cheer, anyway.  Uh, no.

I'm definitely more reflective this year than I may have been in years past.  I have a new sense of appreciation for my life and the people in it that mean so much.  I've crossed paths with so many amazing people this year that I wouldn't have met otherwise.  I refuse to thank cancer for anything, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the strong bonds I've formed as a result of it.

I'm not one to make resolutions - primarily because I suck at sticking to anything for longer than about three weeks.  Now, though, I resolve to be kinder.  Period.  I'll be more thoughtful and considerate of others. I'll reach out more often.  If someone is on my mind, I'll say hello.  I have a fierce temper and a sharp tongue and I genuinely don't anticipate either of those things to go away, but I will do my very best to try to curb the venom.  (Unless someone is being a royal douche wagon, and then all bets are off.  Sorry...)  

These are a few of the other things I'm aiming for in the coming year:

I will love Frankenboob, even if he's misshapen and feels weird.

I will love my salt and pepper hair, even if it means that I may need to tell people that I'm 15 years older so that they can say, "Damn! You look great for your age!"

I will love my extra curves and rolls and "fluffiness", even if I feel like Violet Beauregarde. (Yes, from the original.  Not that Johnny Depp debacle.)

I will love my friends and family, even if they make me bat shit crazy.  (It just means we need a time out, that's all.)

I will love people that hug me too hard, even if I'm sure that Frankenboob might pop.

I will love saying "fuck", even if it offends people.  (Wait.  I do that anyway.)

I will love myself, even when I feel like the "good" days are gone.

I will love my daughters unconditionally forever and ever, even if they make fools of themselves sometimes.

I will love my husband unconditionally forever and ever, even if he grimaces when I drive.  Every. Time.

I will love all of you, even if I don't know many of you.  You've given me an outlet and helped me keep my head on straight.  

From the bottom of my fatigued little heart, I wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons.  Whatever you celebrate, or if you celebrate nothing at all... Peace, love and all that good shit.

Xoxoxo,
Nancy


Thursday, December 6, 2012

BoobiesBoobiesBoobiesBoobies

I need to get a little something off my chest. Heh, heh. No pun intended.

For those of you that know me, as well as those that may only know me through this blog, you know that I'm the kind of person that tells it like it is and rarely minces words. I try not to be insensitive or blatantly hurtful but crass and offensive otherwise? Yes, that's me. Fuck, yeah. Especially on my own blog.

I use many unconventional and, well, probably un-PC terms all the time. Boobies, frankenboob, hoo-hah, junk (among other words) are all part of my regular vernacular and I make zero apologizes for that. This is me. No false pretenses.

What makes me cock an eyebrow (a real, live one!) is when people get upset over the usage of the word "boobie" as it relates to breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most horrible things I've ever experienced. It's as serious, somber and stoic as it is ridiculous, laughable and absurd. Yes, it's life and death and that little nugget is not lost on me. My sense of humor - as warped and fucked up as it may be sometimes - is what has kept me sane during this suck-fest.

I don't begrudge people for dealing with this in whatever way that they need to. I've read countless blogs from women similarly impacted. All have different tones and ways of expressing themselves. Some are silly and frank while others are serious and pensive or very religious. Each blog is interesting to me and I haven't found a single one that has made me turn my nose up because of the way they've described their experiences.

For others to blindly assume that I'm attempting to be cute or blasé about my own experience simply because of language I choose to use is surprising, strangely. I'm as impacted as anyone else whether I call it a breast or a boobie or a tit or a hooter or a funbag. A part of my body was still full of cancer and was cut off. What more is there to debate?

Cancer isn't fun. Nothing about being a science project with crazy fear of the unknown is fun. Have I done fun or admittedly obnoxious things to get through it? You bet your ass, I have. I've talked about my Debbie Downer moments several times. It happens. News flash: I'm not always rainbows and butterflies and shit but either way, I'm going to be as honest as I can be.

I may have fought this beast and am bigger than what tried to kill me but I am NOT above third grade humor when the mood strikes... Especially when dealing with my boobies.

I feel better now. Thanks for listening. Xoxo

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DONE!

After nearly 9 months, 3 tumors, 13 rounds of chemo, 1 badass mohawk, 1 bald body, 1 bout of nasty neuropathy, 1 surgery, 2 grody drains/testicles, shit tons of blood draws, IVs and meds, 1 frankenboob and 30 rounds of radiation, I am officially done with all of my cancer treatments. NOW I feel like a "real" survivor.

Let the living commence...

Thank you - all of you - for following along with my journey and for your endless support! I will continue this blog at least through my final reconstruction next summer. After that - who knows?

Love and kisses and all that sappy shit.

Xoxo










Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

Today I turned 42. I did wonder if it'd see another birthday. As always, fuck you, cancer. I'm still kickin'. Woo hooooooo!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Zzzzzz

All through radiation so far, fatigue has stayed at bay and I've felt pretty "normal". (Using this word extremely liberally...) For some reason, today, it's reared it's ugly head in a big way. I'm exhausted and haven't done a damn thing. I can't really complain since it's been pretty dormant for six weeks but holy hell... I haven't missed this shit at all. I have to accept the fact that I'll continue to have good days and not-so-good days still.

Tomorrow is a new day - AND my birthday, so I will feel good. One day at a time!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm thankful for...

In no particular order...

1. Eyebrows and eyelashes. Welcome back, my friends. I've missed you.

2. My rockstar husband. He's been to my appointments, laughed with me, cried with me, drained my yucky drains, plus umpteen other things. He's the best caregiver I could ever ask for. He also rocks the bald.

3. Being cancer-free. Duh.

4. My mini-rockstar girls. They were forced to grow up fast with this and have been so helpful, loving and compassionate. They've also got solid senses of humor, which is awesome.

5. My Mohawk. It was short-lived but let me be one badass-looking rebel for a week. It was empowering and freeing, too. Damn, I wish I still had it.

6. My sister. We've been through some unfun shit the last couple of years but we can count on each other. Our relationship has only grown stronger and I'm so fortunate to have her.

7. My pups. They curled up with me when I felt like cow shit or was stoned after chemo. They hopped down at the first sign of Matt coming in the room so that we didn't get busted. Good dogs.

8. Amazing insurance. I understand how people can become financially devastated after an event like this. This stuff ain't cheap.

9. Chuy's. They were my post-chemo eatery of choice and never failed to make me happy. I could always stomach it, surprisingly enough. Creamy jalapeño is yummy, yummy crack.

10. All those who have walked, run and relayed in my honor. I'm lucky to walk in a straight line without tripping, so there's that.

11. Scarves. They've kept my bald head warm and hidden. They've also kept Frankenboob warm and hidden.

12. Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, American Horror Story and Duck Dynasty. Violence, sex, vampires and hilarious rednecks have provided excellent distractions one episode at a time. Okay, a few marathons here and there but who's counting

13. Woobies. Perfect for napping or recovering.

14. Social media. I can continue with my attention whore activities AND spread awareness about breast cancer at the same time. Score!

15. MD Anderson. They saved my life. I love that shit.

16. A strong - albeit warped and sometimes wildly inappropriate - sense of humor. It's kept me sane.

17. Prozac. Happy pills help. I'm not ashamed. I'd be a hot mess without them. Well, a hotter mess, that is.

18. Boy bands. That is all.

19. Everyone that's provided meals to us over the last several months. It's so hard to ask for help and this is something I'd never ask for but wow... It was huge. I could never repay that generosity. Seriously. I'm a lousy cook. Ha.

20. You and you and you. Even you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine. Xoxo

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Huh?

This chemo brain business is still a huge factor. I have days where I'm sharper than others but today is most certainly not one of those days. My memory is horrible today. I can't recall names or simple facts/details very easily. Sure, I joke about it and really do believe that sometimes this medically-induced ignorance is bliss but geez...

I've read that it's generally reversible, but sometimes it can stick around for decades. Nice.

If I forget seemingly simple details, please be patient with me. I may remember what your phone number was in high school, but I won't remember your last name right away.

Crazy shit, I tell ya'...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Long time no... blog!

Hi!
I realize that I've been sucky about updating this blog in the last several weeks, but well... life has kinda gotten in the way.

Let's see... Since we last spoke, I had just been mapped for my radiation treatments.  As of today, I have completed 22 of 30 and expect to finish on Tuesday, November 27th.  It happens to be the day after my birthday, (or RE-birthday) so yay for me!

Of all of my treatments, radiation has had the fewest immediate side effects.  I'm in my 5th week and Frankenboob seems to be faring pretty well at this point. I'm definitely pink - like I didn't quite put enough sun block on - but other than some sunburn-like itchiness/rashiness, it's really no biggie.  They've told me that I can use a combo of Aquaphor and hydrocortisone to help ease the affected areas.

The sessions take between 10-20 minutes depending on the tech and whether or not the machine feels like cooperating.  I lay there in my sprinkler/super model pose while the beast whirs around me.  They play a variety of CDs that range from Carrie Underwood to old 50s music to Abba.  The other day, one of the songs was "Beautiful Day" by U2.  If I could have belted that one I would have but they seem to get testy when you move around.  Go figure.

There is a wonderful woman named Barbara, whose appointments immediately follow mine.  She's a few sessions behind me and we chat each day for a few minutes before she gets called back.  Because she drives nearly an hour to get to MD Anderson, she brings a new friend with her each day.  She joked today that at this point, I've probably met everyone in Livingston.  It's nice to compare notes with someone that's gone through exactly what I have.  I hope that we can continue to stay in touch after this radiation "fun" is over.

I got my hair trimmed for the first time last Thursday.  Even though it's far from long, it certainly needed to be shaped.  It's crazy, but I feel a million times better now.  It's like it's on purpose rather than me waiting for my post-chemo baby fuzz to grow out.  I do get quite a bit of compliments on my salt and pepper hair, which blows me away.  I'm not quite 42.  I'm WAY too young for that hair color, but the fact of the matter is that I have hair, so there's that.  I've heard that it isn't wise to color hair for at least a year because it could turn orange from all the chemo.  Um.  I'll take the zero on that one.  Salt and pepper it is!

My eyebrows and eyelashes are fairly normal now.  They're not nearly as thick as they were yet, but nothing that would make people look at me funny.  Other than my Oompa Loompa-on-steroids body, I'm starting to look like myself again and not a cancer patient.  I feel pretty good overall, except for some nagging rib pain here and there under Frankenboob.  It doesn't bother me all the time, but it's a pain in the ass.  Well, or rib.  It's kinda like sleeping for way too long with an underwire bra or when you're pregnant and your baby gets their foot caught up in your rib cage - times 10.  Not fun.  Advil seems to calm it down, which is great.  I believe that it's just the expander pressing on my rib and with the added weight of my bean bag prosthetic - it can get sore.  It could be worse.

Today, when I went in for treatment, I got my "boost" set up.  Dr. Schlembach basically drew a festive green rectangle around Frankenboob and during my final 5 appointments, the radiation will be targeted to that area only.  It'll give the rest of my skin a chance to heal sooner, but it's also focusing on the scar bed from my tumor.  It's a more topical zap as well.

I'm so relieved to finally be nearing the end of this whole mess.  From my first chemo treatment to my final radiation treatment, it's been about 8 1/2 months.  I could have had a baby.  Ha.  I can't even imagine.

Now that I'm cancer-free, oddly, it's somewhat anti-climactic.  It's hard to go from a regular person to a super cancer rockstar and back to a regular person.  Even though I'm all clear, I'm still not done. People have gone back to their normal lives and I'm feeling, well, I'm not sure how to even articulate it.  I'm not upset or mad.  I'm not lonely.  I'm thrilled to feel like I'm somewhat human again, but this stage is just really strange.  People are still wonderful and supportive, so it's not that.  Maybe since cancer isn't as much at the forefront of my life - it's okay that it's not at the forefront of others' lives as well.  Let me be clear... I am VERY happy with where I am today.  It's sort of like when I finished a musical run in school.  It was nice to have my nights and weekends back but I missed the excitement.  Cancer bullshit is hardly "exciting", but you know what I mean... Or maybe you don't.  Sorry if I'm talking in circles.

The last time I took one of my painkillers was this past Sunday.  I've been taking 2 Advil before bed - and that's it.  I'm really not sore (except for the random rib busters that I mentioned earlier) but I haven't had that happen in about a week or so.  I'm pretty much able to do the same things that I could do before, but I'm far more cautious about what I lift with my right arm.  This extra weight is certainly cumbersome, but now that radiation is wrapping up, I can get rid of that, too.

I mentioned to someone yesterday that the old me is gone.  I'll never get her back because far too much has changed.  I am looking forward to the new, reinvented me.  It's time.

Thanks for hanging around and listening to my story.  It helps me to share and I'm happy to know that it's helped others in this situation, too.

Peace out for now...  I'll be back soon!  (I promise!)


This is my friend, the radiation machine.  It moves around me.  Normally, that white cloth isn't around me and I'm fully exposed on that side.




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sorry...

Hi there. Remember me? I know it's been a long time since I've updated. It's nearly 2:15am, so I'm not going to do it now, but I just wanted to apologize for the long delay. I promise to update soon. Really.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pre-radiation preparations

It's been one helluva week... I had several appointments with all of my doctors.

As I mentioned last Monday, I saw Dr. Nelson on Monday. He reiterated my good news. On Wednesday, I had an appointment to see McBoobie so that he could take my drain out and deflate frankenboob for my appointment with radiology.

The removal of the first drain was nothing. He snipped the suture and pulled it out. I really didn't feel anything. With this one, he pulled a good foot of drain tube out of my side. I could feel a gross gurgling/blowing bubbles in your milk sensation on the side of frankenboob. Soooo nasty. Total heebie jeebies after that one. He didn't think that I needed to be deflated. I mentioned a couple of times that they had specifically requested it but he said "You should be fine. If not, you can come back and I'll deflate you." Argh. I just knew where it was headed.

Thursday morning, we got to radiology. We met with Laura, the radiation oncology PA first. She asked a bevy of health questions and then had us watch a short video about what to expect with the process. There wasn't anything that I hadn't already been told, which was good. Shortly thereafter, we met Dr. Schlembach, who is my radiation oncologist. She indicated that she was very familiar with my case and had discussed it with her colleagues at two separate conferences. They agreed that, because of my young age (snicker) and the fact that I had triple negative breast cancer, the best course of action would be to proceed with six weeks of radiation - mostly as a preventative measure. This was in line with what I had been told all along and what I, too, believed was the right course of action for me.

She gave me a quick exam and then sent me off to see the tech, Tom, so that I could be mapped. We walked into the radiation room (or "vault" as they call it...). We chatted a bit about what I could expect and off we went. I was thrilled to find out that I was, in fact, getting tattoos for this. Nice.

The machine looks quite a bit like a CT scan machine. He laid a rectangular form (a "cradle") down and smoothed out what looked like styrofoam beanbag beads. He had me expose frankenboob and then I laid on the table.

Once I laid down, he had me put my right arm up with my hand to the side of my head. (Think - sprinkler move). my head was turned to the left. it wasn't a horrible position, all things considered. I was thankful that I could get my arm up that far. He then sucked the air out of the cradle so that it molded to my form.

He then pulled the "good" side of my gown taut and had me hook my left thumb into my waistband to hold it in place. He placed a warm towel across my chest and grabbed several indelible markers to get started. He fired up the machine and lined me up in the crosshairs. He drew all over the right side of my torso in blue and pink. Because I don't have any feeling in most of frankenboob, it wasn't any big deal.

After the markings, he told me that he was going to start the tattoos. I got four small dots to help them line up the machine. The first two were on frankenboob itself. I didn't feel them at all. The third one was on my upper chest. He said "this one may hurt a little". It was nothing. A teeny little poke and that was it. The fourth one was on my right side. He said "this one is going to hurt". Nope. It wasn't even as bad as the big pokes I've had when blood was drawn. He joked about adding "tattoo artist" to his resume. "My specialty is dots", he said. Haha.

Once I was sufficiently marked and molded, he started a dry run and told me that I couldn't move at all. He could do some of the mapping electronically. Just before we started, Dr. Schlembach came in, surveyed us work and gave the a-okay to proceed.

The process was basically a CT scan. It didn't seem to take more than 20 minutes or so.

When we were done, he gave me some rules such as - no deodorant, lotions, perfumes, etc. on the side to be radiated. I'll also have to stop shaving after the 2nd or 3rd week because my skin will be irritated. My appointments will be Monday - Friday at 3:30pm. I will be stinky and hairy. Oh, joy.

That afternoon, Dr. Schlembach called and told me that they weren't able to get readings because my expander was too full. Dammit. I knew it!! She had already talked to McBoobie, who apparently told her "I was afraid that might happen". (What the fuck?). I had to go back and see him later that afternoon to be deflated. Argh.

Once I got there, he took a little compass-like tool and waved it per frankenboob. My expander has two chambers - each with its own magnetic port. The first one was right where my nipple would be. He stuck in the needle attached to a syringe. Remember, I have no feeling there so I watched with complete fascination. He extracted blue liquid (yes, it's dyed). He pulled about 150cc from the bottom and 50cc from the top. It was wild. And nasty.

The next morning, I returned to see Tom. Fortunately, he only had to redo two of my many drawn-on markings and none of my tattoos. (Whew!) he reran the simulation and I was out of there 30 minutes later. He did tell me that I couldn't lose or gain any weight during this time because it would impact my markings. Good lord! I have officially been told to stay chunky for six weeks. That's crazy.

On Thursday afternoon through Friday morning My temp was around 99. I was worried about getting a fever so I laid low and slept a lot. Most of the day, Friday, in fact. I feel fine now but have been incredibly sore. I'm sure it's from being manhandled and contorted all week.

I start work tomorrow after nearly a month. I won't lie - I'm going back with some mixed emotions. I'm very glad to get some normalcy back, though.

Tuesday is Day 1 of radiation. I'll let you know how that goes!

One more thing.

** WARNING **
** Not for the squeamish ***

THIS is the current state of frankenboob. No, you don't want this. No one does. This is what cancer does. This is what I will live with for the next 7 or so more months - at least.

Get. Your. Boobies. Checked.

That is all. Sorry for being all graphic and shit but it's my reality.

I love you. Xoxo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm free!

McBoobie removed my second drain today. No more testicles! Yay for me!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello, friends!

Hi!
Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  I'm sure I'm driving my facebook friends absolutely nuts with my breast cancer stuff, but I'm all over it.  I've had a Boobie Fact of the Day, among other things.  Sample:

"While it's extremely rare, some men can actually lactate.  Admit it - you just thought of that scene from 'Meet the Parents', too..."

This has become a passion.  I want people to be aware and not have to go through something like this.  It sucks.  Sucks donkey asses.  With burs stuck in there.

This past Saturday, several friends and family and I drove down to Houston and participated in the 22nd Komen Race for the Cure with approximately 30k others.  A few ran the 5k and most walked.  I walked some of it.  I'm hoping to walk the whole thing next year.  It was empowering and humbling all at the same time.  As a brand-spankin' new survivor, I got to wear a special survivor shirt.  I got high-fives and thumbs up throughout the event.  Pretty damn cool.

Thank you to Sue, Donna, Sharon, Claudia, Criss, Rachael, Bethany, Emma, Hana, Katie and especially Jenny (my PIC), Jenny (my sister), Hannah and Maddie.  You've all rocked my world by coming out on Saturday.  I simply cannot thank you enough!







** Side note: When I got my shirt, all they had left were XLs or XXLs.  I took an XL and I was swimming in it. Couple that with my Stay-Puft Marshmallow status and I felt super cute.  I would have cropped myself out from the arm down BUT this guy's outfit was far too awesome not to include! 

I also had a follow up with my oncologist, Dr. Nelson, today.  This was the first time that I had seen him since my final chemo treatment in August.  He was giggly and all smiles when he came in.  (Yes, giggly...)  He reiterated the good news that Dr. Rourke had shared; that my pathology reports were really great.  He went on to tell me that with triple negative patients, only about 30% of them have labs as clean as mine.  Put this in perspective...  10-15% of those with breast cancer have triple negative. Of THOSE people, 30% have completely cancer-free reports after chemo/surgery.  These are the kind of odds I love. Chemo is a nasty dirty monster, but it saved my life.  

My blood work showed that I am slightly more anemic than I was last time.  He wasn't too concerned since I did just have major surgery a few weeks ago.  He believes that it should resolve itself as I heal.  Interestingly, when I had my vitals checked prior to the appointment, my body temperature was back up to 98.4, which is the closest to normal that it's been since I started chemo.  My body is slowly getting there.  I have my full sense of taste back and rarely have any effects from the neuropathy.  My chemo brain is still a factor and actually feels a little worse lately.  I hope that goes away in time, too.

My next appointment with Dr. Nelson will be in February - which is four months from now. I'm officially a follow up!  At that point, we'll schedule my regular annual mammogram, since I'll still have my good boob by then. 

My sister and her family came out this past weekend.  It was so wonderful to have them here.  They live about 7 1/2 hours away and are closer than any other family.  They gave me that little boost that I've needed.  They're good shit.

I've genuinely had a great few days. I'm glad to be on the uphill swing!  

More later...

Peace out.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Drain Update

Howdy!
I had an appointment with McBoobie a little while ago. He said that everything looks good and he removed one of my drains. I expected it to hurt and just be really gross when he removed it, but it was nothing. Whew! I should be able to have the other drain removed next week.

I have a consult with Radiology next week as well. In preparation, I'll have to have frankenboob deflated.I'm so excited for that loveliness.

My back has been pretty sore lately. I think it's most likely due to the fact that I've had to sleep all contorted. Frankenboob has been a little swollen, but I still have virtually no bruising, which is great. I'm thankful for my pain killers but really look forward to not needing them.

I may have been declared free and clear, but I still have a long way to go. Please continue to send that good juju! I still need all I can get!

More later...

Xoxo

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Think Pink - Within Reason

Tomorrow marks the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Historically, I've had mixed feelings about this. I never understood why it seemed that breast cancer seemed to get far more attention than any other type or cancer. It seemed like other cancers were just as worthy of funding. I never felt like breast cancer WASN'T worthy, mind you... Now, given my personal fight, it's my mission to spread the word and help in any way I can to find a cure for this low-life bastard.

What always baffled me more was the overuse of all things pink during the month of October. My cynical side strongly believes that many companies use this as another way for people to buy their product and not that they're genuinely showing support for the cause itself. In all honesty, some of it makes me gag. I'm not really sure what a pink bucket of KFC or a pink can of Campbell's soup has to do with anything, but whatever.

My daughter likes to point out all of this pink stuff. "Look, mom! Pink frying pans!" I appreciate it but I just don't like pink enough to pink everything out - breast cancer awareness or not.

There has been controversy surrounding the Komen Foundation in terms of what percentage of monies are actually used towards the funding of breast cancer research - among other things. While I still appreciate what they do, I've leaned towards the Breast Cancer Charities of America - which happens to be headquartered here, in The Woodlands, Texas. Check them out!

http://www.thebreastcancercharities.org/

All if this being said - now that I'm continuing to deal with my own bout of breast cancer, I feel like it's my responsibility to make people aware. I don't want others to have to go through what I have so far - or worse. I feel passionate about this. I loved my boobies. I won't even lie. I wish I didn't have to lose them.

For the next month (well, and beyond), I'll be drinking the pink kool-aid and will strongly encourage each and every one of you to love your boobies. Yes, even the men. I'll be silly and crass, of course, but also serious.

Pass it along!

Xoxoxo

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Best. News. Ever.

I saw my surgical oncologist, Dr. Rourke, today for a follow up appointment and to get my pathology report results.

I got the news that I've been anxiously waiting for...

"NO RESIDUAL CARCINOMA" across the board.

I am officially a cancer survivor!

My doctor told me that it's rare that they get to provide labs that are this clean. They couldn't have been better. Wonderful news!

This has been a long and trying seven months, but I have finally kicked cancer's ass. Woo hoo!

Because my labs were so good, radiation is actually an option right now. I'll meet with radiology to discuss pros and cons. Because of my age and the aggressiveness of the type of cancer that I had (past tense!!), it's generally recommended as a preventative measure just to be sure. Once I have that meeting, I'll make the decision for sure. It won't be for at least three more weeks since I'm still recovering from surgery and they want to make sure that my incision is healed first. I'll keep you updated on that part...

I cannot thank you enough for all of your support and juju! You've all helped me through this! Xoxoxo

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Exposed

You know that dream where you go to school naked? I feel like that all the time. Totally vulnerable. Totally exposed. It sucks.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 1 Following Mastectomy Surgery

Happy Monday!

I had my right skin-sparing total mastectomy a week ago today.  Let me backtrack a bit and I'll start with events from that morning.

We got to St. Luke's at 5:30am that day.  Because of the early time, we entered through the Emergency Room entrance and got checked in.  I got my insurance info all squared away and yet one more wristband to add to my collection and was ready to go.  A nice man came down and gave me a fun-filled ride up to the 2nd floor so that I could begin my journey.  Oddly, when we got in the elevator, he didn't spin me around, so I rode facing the back.  I don't recall the last time I actually rode "backwards".  Stupid observation, I realize...

Once we got upstairs, we were taken to a pseudo room (kinda like a holding cell) for pre-op stuff.  The nurse apologized for the early time and told me that I'd be able to hang out after the dye was injected since my surgery wasn't until noon.  When I told her that I'd likely just try to go back to sleep for a while, she said, "Oh, then I'll take you to a much more private area!"  Woo hoo!  My "room" had a sliding glass door and was on the end, where the others just had a curtain.  I'll take what I can get!

She had me put on the gown and get onto the bed so that they could get the dye started.  After she left, Matt and I debated whether I should leave my undies on or take them off.  The only other time that I have been hospitalized overnight was when I had the girls and clearly, the undies came off for that.  My hoo-hah was not going to be a factor this time, so I opted to just leave them on.  This will be worth noting later...

I also had a pair of standard, hospital-issue brown, non-skid socks (so pretty) and some white, knee-high compression socks (even prettier).  She told me that I didn't have to put them on quite yet, but once I got ready to head into surgery, they'd put compression cuffs on my legs to keep clots from forming.  Matt and I exchanged looks and had a special little dork moment.  Nearly two years ago when my mom had her first stroke, she was all doped up on morphine in the hospital and announced to my sister, two friends of hers (both male) and me that "these things make me feel like my legs are getting blow jobs."  What can you say to that? (Oh, and yes - I come by this shit honestly.)  I did share this little gem with the nurse, whose face was a combination of "oh my GOD - she did NOT just go there" and "I. Love. This."  Hey, it was early in the morning.  Blow job humor is perfect for that time of day, no?

Finally, a new nurse came in to administer the dye into my right boob.  She talked it up quite a bit and flat out told me that she wasn't going to sugar coat it; that it would be very uncomfortable.  She explained that she was going to inject me IN THE NIPPLE and that I'd feel a burning sensation once it went in.  Did I mention that it was going in my nipple!?!?  She asked if I wanted to have Matt come over and hold my hand.  Holy shit.  As he walked over to my left side, she began to prep my skin on and around my nipple with antiseptic.  As she moved the tool (heh, heh) around me, I realized that nothing was coming out.  It felt like she was maybe just performing some fluffer duties instead. (Look it up, folks.)  The antiseptic finally started to flow and she laughed saying, "I bet you wondered why I was just feeling your boob like that..."  Indeed, I did!

Next came the needle.  She told me not to look at it. (Uh - too late.)  It was a normal looking needle to me, but I really don't know anyone that likes to have a needle jammed into them - much less into their nipple.  Matt squeezed my hand and she asked if I was ready.  I couldn't watch her.  As we would joke about later - the thought of that made my vagina clench up.  She stuck it in and it was nothing. (Again - heh, heh.)  She said, "you probably didn't think that was bad, but it's not 'it' yet."  I sighed, then held my breath.  She told me that I'd feel the slight burning, which I did, and then she was done.  That was it.  It was nothing.  Having my blood drawn prior to chemo hurts more.  I just looked at her and said, "that was it??"  She called me her poster child for pain (or lack thereof) that day.  Splendid.

From that point, it was one big waiting game.  Keep in mind that I hadn't eaten since 10:30pm the night before.  Even thought it was early in the morning, I was doing my best to not talk about or even think about the "F" word - FOOD.  I tried to snooze for a little bit, but quite honestly, I was just too anxious. I think I slept for maybe 20-30 minutes.  I don't think Matt fared much better.  During this wait, I talked to both Dr. Gordley ("McBoobie") and Dr. Rourke.  The plan was still to get me going at noon so that they could coordinate her portion with his since he also had another surgery that morning.

My PIC, Jenny, got there around 10:30am and provided much-needed comic relief while I waited.  Another nurse came in to start my IV.  Because I hadn't had any food or beverages since the night before, I didn't have a lot of good, juicy veins - with the exception of the ones in my pit of my arm.  She said that anesthesiology doesn't really like lines there, but if they wanted to move it - they could after I was asleep.  It pinched and pulled for a bit but was okay after a while. Shortly thereafter, the anesthesiologist came in.  I don't think he appreciated our brand of humor and gave me an exasperated/annoyed look at one point.  Oops.  Don't piss off the guy giving the drugs!  I answered all of his questions and he left.  (By the way - Jenny dubbed him "McFeelGood".  He, too, is a hottie.)

After a short while, it was showtime.  They put a fancy little blue operating cap on me and McFeelGood told me that he was giving me a little "margarita" to make me comfortable beforehand.  Bring on the happy juice, man!  With all of the flurry of activity, I didn't actually get to say goodbye to Matt or Jenny.  They whisked me off and into the operating room.  I recall scooting onto the table and chatting with Dr. Rourke very briefly and that was it.  I don't remember anything else.

I was in the recovery room for about an hour or so and don't remember any of it.  From what Hannah has told me, I repeatedly told her, "I am SO stoned right now...", but I didn't say anything else incriminating.  My memory picks up as we were getting to my room early that evening. One of the first things that I recall (and this may have happened in recovery now that I type this...) was the nurse handing me a bag and telling me "here's your scarf".  Scarf?  I came in bald.  As I looked at the bag, I realized that my undies were in there.  At some point, someone pulled them off.  Hmm.  The fact that they nearly ended up on my head was made even funnier by the fact that I was drugged up.  I gave them to Matt and went commando.

I would also like to point out that the "blow job cuffs" are kind of annoying, really.  They're noisy.  If that's what a blow job feels like, I'd have to ask for a refund.  I had to keep that contraption going until shortly before I was released.  As soon as I could take those socks off, I scratched and scratched.  I don't remember the last time I wore knee-socks all the way up, either.

Normally, after surgery, you have to go from a liquid to a solid diet because the anesthesia can cause nausea.  There was none of that for me.  I was hungry and wanted real food. I got a turkey sandwich and some cheese.  My throat was still all scratchy from having a tube down it and it was a little rough to swallow, but dammit, that turkey sandwich hit the spot!

The following morning, I was able to go for a couple of laps around the floor with Matt.  The nursery was just down the hall, but there weren't any babies, unfortunately.  It felt good to walk.  I tucked my drains in my robe pockets (which I lovingly refer to as my "testicles") and shuffled down the hall.  Since I still had dilaudid AND norco (like vicodin) in me, I wasn't in a lot of pain, but was pretty uncomfortable.

After all was said and done, we got home around 3pm or so on Tuesday afternoon.  I took a good, long snooze, which was wonderful. I've been pretty sore and tired and get worn out quickly.  I can't lift anything with my right arm (well, that's heavier than a gallon of milk) and have to try to deal with trying to conceal the nasty drains when I'm out and about.  Sundresses have proven to be a groovy option when worn with a sweater.  My boobs are very much lopsided, but once I get more saline in Frankenboob, they'll be closer in size.  The sites where the tubing from the drains exits my body are tender and to have them bumped or tugged on just feels nasty.

Matt has been the most amazing nurse ever.  He empties my drains several times a day and logs the output each time.  He strips the lines when they appear to be a little backed up, which doesn't hurt, but has a major gross factor.  Sometimes, I can feel the fluid snake within the Frankenboob, too.  Ewwwwww.

I take a dump truck load of medications every day. Among them:


  • Antibiotic (2x day)
  • Stool softener (2x day) - Pain killers tend to plug a person up
  • Norco (Every 4 hours as needed for pain)

Matt has a chart for all of my meds, too.  It's all in military time, which I originally found amusing, since neither Matt nor I were in the military and really don't use that time ordinarily BUT he said that it's so he can easily tell if it was AM or PM.  Good call, man.  Good call.

I was a little concerned over the weekend because Frankenboob appeared to be red and warm - almost like it had a fever.  I know that can be a sign of infection.  Since I already had my appointment scheduled with McBoobie today at 8am, I waited until then so I could ask.  My appointment went very well.  He said that I was not infected; that it looked good and that I was healing at the right rate.  I can expect to have my drains removed next week. RIGHT ON.  These dangly testicles are a pain in the ass.  He also told me that we'd shoot for me to get expanded as well.  During surgery, he gave me a total of 450cc of saline.  That's less than half the size of my "good" boob, but at least I'm not totally flat-chested.  

I see Dr. Rourke on Thursday.  At that point, I should get my complete lab results.  Based on those, there's a slim chance that I may not have to have radiation, but I've been told all along to still plan on it. If I don't have to have it - it means that my reconstruction can happen sooner, which is great.  I'm very excited about getting these results.  Well, and anxious.  She already told me that my lymph nodes were clear and that it's about 80-85% accurate prior to the lab testing.  I'm cautiously optimistic.  

Sorry this is such a long update!  I can't believe that I'm done with both chemo AND my first surgery.  I  don't look like my old self and don't feel like her, either.  I don't feel attractive at all and I do have my down days, but dammit - I'm ALIVE and for that, I'm so very thankful!

I'll post again on Thursday after I see Dr. Rourke. 

I love all of you.  I really do.  



                                                                 Pre-op with my rockstar




Pretty "hat"




Without getting TOO graphic, you can see the drains sewn into me.  That lovely bruised area is where they took my lymph nodes.  It's already only half as colorful now.  



This is one of my drains/testicles.  Right now, it's pinned to my waistband so it doesn't dangle down around my leg.








Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The morning after

Good morning! I'm doing pretty well today! Despite the drugs (dilaudid and Vicodin), I really didn't sleep very well. I woke up about once an hour or so. At around 3am, I had to pee like a racehorse, which struck me as odd since I did have a catheter ("foley"). As it turns out, the line was twisted up and wasn't working. My nurse unkinked it and all was good! She ended up taking it out afterwards.

I saw McBoobie this morning and he asked me if I wanted to go home TODAY. As long as I can manage my pain (no more dilaudid) and pee on my own, it's a go!

I'm still pretty out of it and would love a "real" snooze. I love the prospect of taking one in my own bed!

I'll update more later on. Just wanted to provide a quickie. (Heh, heh...)

Love you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Knocked it out of the park

All in all it was a good day for Nancy.  They took Nancy back at 12:00 pm today to prep her for surgery which started at 12:40 pm and ended at about 4:15 pm.  Her surgeon Dr. Rourke and I spoke shortly thereafter and she said everything went perfect.  

Dr. Rourke removed 5 lymph nodes from Nancy's right underarm and tested 4 of them.  The test she ran in the operating room came back negative for any traces of cancer!  She said that that test was about 85% accurate, given the circumstances of such a fast turn around time during the surgery.  That was the best news of the day.  The lymph nodes were sent off to pathology for a more accurate test which should give us results in 5 days.  Dr. Rourke was confident that the pathology reports would reflect her same findings.

Dr. Rourke's part of the surgery took about 3 hours, then Dr. Gordley, the plastic surgeon, was up for about a 45 minute procedure to put the expander in and to prep everything for the final surgery next May/June.  After he was done he came out and said that there were no issues with anything that he had to do and that he felt really good with the results.

Nancy stayed in recovery for about 45 minutes before moving into her room.  More than likely she will be able to go home early Wednesday.

I took the girls home around 8:00 pm so they could finish their homework and get cleaned up for bed and by the time I came back at 8:45 pm Nancy was eating a turkey sandwich and some cheese!  Such a good sign that she had her appetite back and was able to stomach everything.  

It's 9:45 pm right now and she is sound asleep resting, making up for such a long day.

I will stay tonight for another hour or so then back home for the night.  I will be back at the hospital tomorrow morning once I get the girls off to school to keep you in the loop as her recovery progresses.

Thanks to everyone for their love and support.

Matt

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Final Countdown to Surgery

In just over 12 hours, I will be leaving for the hospital.  I've actually been at peace today.  It's Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year.  It's a time to celebrate not only the new year, but a that opportunity for a second chance.  It couldn't come at a better time this year.  My "Ta-ta to the Ta-tas" party at Hooters was a huge success.  Far more people showed up than I expected.  It was exactly the way that I wanted the night to go.  Thank you to all of you that came out.  You absolutely made my night.

I've been doing last minute things today.  I'm much calmer that I thought I'd be, but I suspect that I won't sleep well since I'll be pretty anxious.  I won't lie - I'm scared shitless, but I can beat this motherfucker.  I have the utmost faith in my surgeons and MD Anderson and St. Luke's.

Jenny (PIC-variety) and Matt will be providing updates throughout the day.  Several of you have mentioned that you're "pinking out" tomorrow for me.  I love, love, love that.  If you don't mind - please either post the pics on FB or send them to me.  I'd love to see them when I'm out of surgery!  It would definitely be a bright spot!

If you have any spare juju laying around, I'd be happy to take it.  I still need all I can get!  I cannot say it enough - I'm so very appreciative for each of you that have supported me through this suck-ass journey.  I may laugh and joke but the seriousness of all of it is certainly not lost on me. Bottom line - I don't want to die and as far as I'm concerned, it's not in the cards.

Wish me luck tomorrow.  See you on the flip side.

Love and rainbows and butterflies and shit...

xoxox,
Nancy "Two-Boobed-For-Now" Schneider.





Monday, September 10, 2012

Pre-Op Appointment Fun

Greetings!  By this time next Monday, I expect to be done with surgery.  I can't believe it's right around the corner! I feel like I have so much to do and yet - I think I'm as ready as I can be.  I'm anxious.  I just want it to be done with.

Last Wednesday, I met with Dr. Rourke, (oncology surgeon) for my pre-op appointment.  We went over the surgery and what I can expect.  As she usually does, she drew me pretty pictures and spelled it all out.  Quite literally.  I am having only my right/bad side removed at this time.  I have enough tissue/skin on the left/good side and really don't need the expander.  I will have it removed at the time that I have my reconstruction surgery.  I talked to both surgeons and weighed the pros and cons of each scenario.

I will have:


  • Injection of a dye that will drain from my breast to my lymph nodes.  This will "map" the route that the cancer would take if it were to spread
  • A right skin-sparing total mastectomy (removal of breast, nipple and areola).
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy.
  • Possible intraoperative lympatic mapping (It's a blue dye backup in case the first dye doesn't drain into my nodes. This dye will make my pee blue.  It could also give me hives if I have an allergic reaction.  Yay.)
  • Possible auxillary lymph node dissection (removal of rest of lymph nodes ONLY if both dyes fail to drain into my nodes OR if the sentinal node  is positive for cancer.)
  • Removal of my port

This portion of the surgery will be done by Dr. Rourke and is expected to take 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  


Risks:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Numbness
  • Lymphedema (swelling of the affected arm)
    • If just the sentinal node is removed - it's a 3-5% chance.
    • If I have a full node removal - it's a 25-35% chance.
  • Swelling at the site
  • Wound complications
  • Need for additional surgery

Once she's done, my plastic surgeon, Hottie McHot Pants... I mean, Dr. Gordley, will put the expander in my right/bad side and will stitch me up.  His portion should take approximately an hour.  All told, I'll be in surgery for 4-5 hours.  

I'll be in the hospital for 2-3 days.  I will be on a leave of absence from work for 4 weeks.  During that time, I will not be bed-ridden and will be expected to walk around and do specific range-of-motion exercises with my right arm.  I won't be able to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for several weeks, either. 

Because my resting heart rate is normally around 100, both of my surgeons were a bit concerned and wanted to have me checked out by a cardiologist.  As I've mentioned in a previous post, because I have a very strong family history of heart issues AND chemo can badly damage the heart, I wanted to see one, too, for my own piece of mind.  

Last Thursday, I saw Dr. Kantis.  I filled out what seemed to be a reams-worth of paperwork.   After that, I talked to a chatty Kathy nurse (who was very nice, by the way) and had an EKG.  Dr. Kantis came in afterwards to discuss my cancer, my concerns, my mitral valve prolapse, etc.  While my EKG was normal, he wanted me to have an echocardiogram just to ensure that I don't, in fact, have any damage from the chemo.  He gave me clearance for surgery and told me that based on the EKG, I was good to go.  I know that they'll be monitoring me the whole time, but it made me feel better.  He'll pass along the echo results to my doctors.

He also put me on Inderal, which is a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure, mitral valve prolapses and... (wait for it...) prevention of migraines.  I was on it in my early 20s.  He put me on it so that my heart can regulate and my rate can slow down a bit.  I'll continue to take it until I have surgery and then slowly wean myself off of it.  I've been on it since Friday and my heart rate earlier this afternoon was only 76.  ("Only...")

On Friday night, I started to get a bit of a scratchy throat. REALLY??  I can't afford to get sick just days before surgery!  I'm pretty sure it's just allergies since we've had a cold front and the counts seem to be pretty high.  I didn't take chances, though, and saw my primary doctor who gave me a Z-pack so that I don't get sick since my immune system is shot.  Good times.

By the way - I did get the jammies I was looking for at Walmart.   Two of the sets were only $10 and the third was $15.  SCORE!  They're only mildly frumpy, so I considered it a win there, too.  

I have my Ta-ta to the Ta-tas Happy Hour at Hooters (yes, that's on purpose) this coming Friday.  I won't be drinking, but I'm thinking that a designated drunk might be fun for me.  I'll keep buying them shots and let them do all the obnoxious things that I can't. I'm sure I'll post a few pics...  

Without going too deep - this week will definitely be one of a great deal of reflection.  This is the last time that I will have a "whole" body - the one that I was born with.  I will never be the same, even if I DO get to have perky boobs and a flat tummy.  I didn't elect to do that stuff.  I didn't have a choice.  I pray that things turn out okay and that in just over a week, I can officially say that I'm a cancer survivor.  Woo hoo!  

xoxo...


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sleep? What's that?

It's well after 4am. I've been awake for a few hours. I'm wondering if I'll ever sleep through the night again. I honestly can't recall the last time I did - even with meds to help me snooze. I am bored silly but am also no fool and refuse to leave the bed. Reading a book or watching TV will more than likely keep me awake rather than help me nod off. This. Sucks. Ass.

My normal routine for insomnia is to play with my phone. I hit these apps/sites in the following order:

1. Facebook: Amusing/confusing/annoying stuff from friends and family is always fun.

2: TMZ: Amusing/confusing/annoying stuff from celebrities is also fun.

3. People Online: See above.

4. CNN/USA Today: I pretend to be smarter than I am and check up on "real" news. Not so surprisingly, I hit the entertainment sections first.

5. Dear Abby (this is embedded in another app): It's written by her daughter now and damn, that woman can be downright bitchy. She tells it like it is - kinda like a tired, piss-poor grandma. She's my kinda girl. This app, though, seems to disregard commas and I'm not sure why. It bugs me. (Of course, since I'm only reading it in the middle of the night, I usually don't give a shit and forge ahead to the next desperate soul.)

6. Google: I will look up whatever random, inane topic is floating through my overactive and wide awake brain.

Today's selections were:
- "Morgan Freeman Dead". There's a rumor that he died. He did not. Whew.

- "Post Mastectomy Pajamas". It's not as easy as it should be to find button-down jammies that aren't long-sleeved or Hugh Hefner-ish. I snickered and thought "I bet Walmart has some." (My least favorite store ever.) Sure as shit, they did. I found two sets for $13 and $11 respectively. I can even get them online to avoid actually visiting a store. Shipping is .97. Score!

- Pollen counts for my area followed immediately by "Allergies vs cold". I have a scratchy, itchy throat. I'm a little congested. My ears also itch as do my eyes. This all started earlier in the evening. (Well, not my eyes. They've itched for days.) I hope and pray that it's only allergies and not that I caught a cold a week and a half before major surgery! I will be sooooo pissed if I'm sick! I can't really take any meds because I was told NOT to in preparation for said surgery. Argh.

As I look at the clock, I've only wasted about 20 minutes on this little ditty. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken that long. I'm sorry for the rambling. It's a brain dump at this point.

Aw, shit... I just remembered. I had iced tea at dinner. Sure, that doesn't sound like a big deal but since I don't drink caffeine as much as I used to, I'm uber sensitive to it - especially if I have it late in the day. Dammit... It's irritatingly comical, really. Matt is peacefully sleeping next to me. Perhaps I should accidentally wake him up. Misery loves company, no? Ha...

I still need to provide an update on my pre-op doctor's appointments this week. I think I'll save that for a time when I'm a bit more well-rested. Gotta keep my facts straight and I am waaaaay too lazy to actually get out of bed right now and look at my paperwork to confirm these facts.

It's now 5am. I'm going to try - in vain - to snooze again. Wish me luck.

Peace out.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The party no one wants an invite to...

Wednesday nights are pizza nights for the us. Tonight, we went to a local pizza place and as we chowed down, a woman and her husband came in. She had a Race for the Cure hat on and sported the all-too familiar cancer 'do. As we got ready to leave, I stopped by their table and said "I like your hairdo!" She said, "Oh, you have cancer, too?" and began to ask how far into treatment I was. She told me that she had had breast cancer and beat it but has lung cancer now. She found out recently that her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer but she didn't have the heart to tell her about her own cancer. "I needed to be there for her!", she said. She went on to say, "I didn't even want to tell my own mother!" Oh boy... I could SO relate. She's 80 years old and I hope she kicks this cancer's ass, too.

As we chatted, a woman at a nearby table stopped over and said, "I couldn't help but overhear... I'm a three-time survivor myself!" She had ovarian/uterine, breast cancer and melanoma. We talked chemo and mastectomies and whatnot. Here we were, total and complete strangers, yet sharing our cancer stories like old war vets. We wished each other well and all hugged before we left. I don't know their names. I just know that we're all part of the same shit-ass club that no one wants to be a member of.

Cancer is a fucking douche nozzle and I hate that it affects so many people. These women, though, made my night...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Upsides of a Mastectomy

I think the downsides to a mastectomy a pretty clear. No need to rehash them. I've come up with several positives...

1) The obvious: It gets rid of that cancer bastard.

2) My nipples will point forward and outward and will cease to make sparks on the ground when I'm braless.

3) I'll get my first tattoo. It will be an areola, but a tat is a tat.

4) Said tattoo will be by a healthcare professional with numbing cream involved, so I won't have to pretend to be a badass and take the pain or be in a dicey tattoo parlor. Hmmm... Will I be less cool this way? Dammit.

5) I am allowed to be fondled by a Hottie McHotpants with zero objections from my husband. Okay, I know he's my plastic surgeon and all but it still counts! (I will also get fondled by my female surgeon and her female PA, but I think that's likely a bigger plus on Matt's list than mine...)

6) I'm a jiggler. My boobs are like Marty Feldman watching a wayward fly when I walk at a good clip. Jiggles be gone!

7) During the expander phase, I'll get to watch my boobs "grow" before my very eyes - kinda like puberty but without the teenage angst and bad perms.

8) I'll get to take a major nap for several hours during surgery. I can't remember the last time I slept through the night.

9) I get to have fun drains sewn into me which should provide an excellent distraction from the patchy hair coming in on my head. Well, and everywhere else on my body.

10) Free tummy tuck! Duh...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chemo Treatment #13: THE FINAL ONE

I made it!  I finished 13 rounds of chemo!  The last few months have flown by - they really have.  Oddly, I couldn't have been more excited to go to MD Anderson last Thursday. Sure, getting another smackdown of poison in my body wasn't really the fun part, but getting to say that I survived this part of the beastly cancer triathlon was truly awesome stuff.

My PIC, Jenny ("Partner-In-Crime" for the newbies), made a most wonderful boobie cake that was shared with the nursing staff.  The box was complete with wonderful (and some hilariously inappropriate) comments from coworkers.  The cake came complete with gummy nipples and was made of red velvet.  How perfect...  We brought the girls along for the ride, too.  They hung out in the waiting room while I got my premeds and came in once the chemo itself started - only because the room really isn't very comfortable for 5 people for that long.  We busted out silly mustaches and a funky hat and just had a little party. 

Once I was done, all of the nurses came out and I got to ring the bell signaling the end of treatment.  It was just a little clanky cowbell, but dammit - I rang the hell out of that thing!  I did a little Nancy dance, too.  (As if anyone is surprised by that.)  The nurses gave me a lovely cardboard crown that I proudly wore. I actually thought I'd be more emotional.  I was thrilled and giddy but wasn't crying.  I can't say the same for everyone else, though. I spotted some wet eyes...  My nurses have all been so great.  They're wonderful women that I completely trusted my life to.  Lilli, Amber, Sarah, Tracy, Angelette...  They're all rockstars to me.

This is really huge.  I've felt like such a wuss throughout chemo; that I should have been stronger and not missed any work or should have been training for a marathon or something heroic.  I have felt tremendous guilt because I've heard so many stories of people that worked out like crazy during chemo or didn't miss a step in their lives and no one even knew that they had cancer.  I wasn't like that.  I was a loudmouth about it.  I also had crummy days.  Several of them.  I didn't work out.  I was lucky to make it outside quite a few times the week following FAC treatments. I didn't eat particularly healthy during the last 4 rounds because frankly, my appetite was so fucked up that I ate what I could stomach without being completely grossed out.  I didn't exactly sit around eating moonpies and frito pies or anything, but I could have been better.  I don't recommend doing things (or NOT doing them, as the case may be) the way that I did, but it's how I was able to get through it.  All in all, I had far more good days than bad, which is great.  I did expect to feel much sicker and be far more debilitated.  I'm so very thankful that I was as healthy as I was prior to this diagnosis, though.

How that chemo is done, I'm reverting to a much healthier lifestyle.  Diet and exercise are such huge factors in keeping cancer from recurring.  I'm picking the juicing back up.  We had already started buying mostly organic foods.  We tried to avoid processed foods and heavy white sugars/flours.  Because my liver enzymes are a bit elevated from the chemo,  I'm also avoiding alcohol for the foreseeable future.  After just two glasses of wine in five months, I really don't miss it anyway, strangely enough.  I've done it before and it was never a biggie. I still loathe water - especially ice water - but I really hope that goes away as the chemo leaves my system.  (Weird, I know...)

Triple negative breast cancer is known to have one of the lowest survival rates, especially within the first two years.  I have to be vigilant.  I've learned that yes, it CAN happen to me.  Why make it easier?  I have never, ever been a religious person, but all of this has really made me wonder...  I shocked the hell out of Matt recently when I told him that I was strongly considering having a priest visit prior to being wheeled into surgery.  His response?   "YOU??"  Yeah, me.  Whodathunkit.  Of course, I'm not Catholic, so there's that.  Does it matter?  It could be a rabbi, for all I care.  I think the message ultimately will be the same no matter what denomination, no? 

Speaking of surgery, I received my official confirmation date of Monday, 9/17, which is just four weeks from yesterday.  I'm anxious to get this show on the road, but honestly pretty freaked about major surgery.  The only time I've ever been hospitalized was when I gave birth to the girls and those were at least a happy occassions.  Well, kinda.  I was a moody, crying crab when I had Maddie, but that's beside the point...  Please continue to send your good juju my way - even during this month off.  I need to be as strong and healthy as I can be for this surgery both physically and emotionally.  I'm gonna go all needy on your asses.  I'm warning you... 

You may not hear from me this coming month, but I'll do my best to check in here and there.

Following are some pics from the big day.  Enjoy!

Thanks for helping me through this leg.  I love you peeps! Woo hoo!!!!!!

xoxo


                                                       Jenny's fabulous boobie cake




Fun with 'staches




Treatment #13.  Woot!



Ringing the bell



My PIC.  :)




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Final Countdown

I just got back from seeing Dr. Nelson (who is going to be on vacation tomorrow). My bloodwork looks good so I have the okay for my FINAL chemo! This will be my last official treatment! Most breast cancer patients continue a hormone treatment regimen for quite some time after chemo has finished. (Years...) Because I am triple negative, this type of therapy won't benefit me, so I won't have to take pills at all! Woo hoo!

Dr. Nelson told me that my liver has some slightly elevated levels, which, for this point in treatment, is not uncommon and nothing to be concerned with. Once the chemo is out of my system, my levels should return to normal. I won't see him again until October 8th.

I can't wait to ring the hell outta that bell tomorrow!

I'll post more after #13 is done. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eyebrows!

I actually plucked my fledgling eyebrows today. That is all.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The little plant that could

Many years ago, our office moved from one building to another. When we moved in, there were a couple of ivy plants at the desk of one of my coworkers, named Karen. Karen kept them green and healthy and happy while she sat at that desk. We had a desk move and I ended up moving into her desk. She asked me at the time if I wanted to just keep the plants since she had inherited them herself. I said "of course" knowing that I really didn't have a green thumb but figured they'd be nice to have.

Over the next couple of years, I managed to keep the plants alive and well. Karen, unfortunately didn't fare quite as well. She was diagnosed with cancer. (I want to say that it was ovarian or uterine, but I just can't recall at the moment...). I felt then that I had to keep the plants alive for her. She "gave" them to me, after all. Sadly, she lost her battle after a hard fight. She was a very sweet woman and I've always thought of her when I'd look at the plants.

Several moves later, I was down to one plant. I had a temporary desk and it was back at my old desk. I hadn't been watering it or really giving it any thought. Clearly, I had other major things on my mind. Once I got to my permanent desk and got my belongings, I saw that it was at the brink of death. The leaves had all but fallen off and died and the branches/stems were wilty and sad. I thought of Karen and my own plight. (Yeah, it was a sappy moment...) I couldn't let that plant die. It had to live - for Karen and for me. I cut all the dead parts off and put it in the window with a fresh drink of water and hoped for the best.

Earlier this week, I saw that my pathetic little plant had sprouted some little green leaves. It is making a comeback. What a little fighter.

Just like Karen. Just like me.

I won't let it die. It seems awfully symbolic now. It's my "fuck cancer" plant and I love it. It will be healthy again and so will I. Thank you, Karen for giving it to me!

Here it is in my window. Makes me grin. :)





Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kickin' it

Hannah and I got some fantastically horrid hot pink kicks to wear for the Komen walk/run in October. We'll have time to get them all broken in and comfy while we train. (I tried to type that last past with a straight face. Really, I did...)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Plastic surgery, here I come...

Yesterday morning - at 7am, no less - I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Gordley. After waiting about 25 minutes or so in the exam room, he came in. He's a young, studly buffpants-type with ginormous arms. (I'm may be married, but I'm not dead for crying out loud...). We found out that he's originally from Ohio (Findlay, to be exact), so he scored extra brownie points.

He asked questions about my medical history and my breast cancer. We discussed my mitral valve prolapse, which really isn't any big deal for me, but the fact that my current chemo can cause heart damage has me concerned in general about the overall health of my heart. He told me that surgery will be quite a workout for me. He will make sure that my ticker is checked out beforehand so that we don't have any surprises during surgery. I was relieved that he heard my concerns.

He showed me what the expander looks like. Everyone knows that a breast implant looks like. It's similar in shape but it's a much harder, less flexible material. It has a large, round area in the center, which is the port. This will be located magnetically and accessed via butterfly needle (much like my port now). From what I've read, they'll add anywhere from 20-100ccs per visit until I'm at the desired size. They won't really look or feel like normal breasts, but they'll keep my skin stretched for my eventual reconstruction.

There are risks with the expanders. There is a chance of infection and the possibility that they could move up within my chest. They can also cause pain and/or discomfort. If I were to opt NOT to go with expanders and wait until final reconstruction, I run the very likely possibility of much worse scarring and issues with my skin.

I will get the tummy tuck out of this, as I've mentioned before. I will likely have enough tissue from my gut for both sides and NOT have to have implants, according to Dr. Gordley. I'm skeptical but totally down with it. They'd still be "real". Pretty damn cool.

It's a lot to absorb and, quite honestly, left me with a lot more questions. I do have time and plan on talking to him soon.

After the informational part of the appointment was done, it was time for the Michelin Man to make an appearance. I put on a real, live robe and waited for him to come back in. Matt and I debated whether I should drop trou or not. I finally decided I should since I expected that he'd examine my flab, too. Sigh...

Once he came back in, he asked me stand and proceeded to take a big handful of Nancy roll. He squeezed and pinched various spots around my stomach. No woman EVER wants anyone doing that. I think I would have preferred a stick in my eye. With wire barbs and acid on it. I was like the Pillsbury-fucking-dough girl. Ugh.

From there, he whipped out a tape measure and measured from nipple to nipple, from nipple to belly button and from nipple to my collarbone. Afterwards, he asked me to take my robe off so that he could take some pictures.

I was wearing nothing but undies (cute ones, at least) and a sarcastic smile. Oh, and eyebrows. Can't forget the eyebrows. He took five pictures of me from various angles. My over-the-shoulder, with a coy smile was my favorite. Okay, I'm making that one up. Two side-views, two 45-degree angles and one from the front. I joked and said, "I guess it doesn't matter if I try to suck it in, eh?" that evoked a few snickers. (Oh, yeah... Four of us were in there. Matt, Dr. Gordley, a nurse and me.)

He handed me back the robe and we continued to chat a bit afterwards. Matt and I both liked him quite a bit. I appreciated his honest and frank candor. He wasn't trying to sell me on anything but wanted me to be informed. The next step is for his office to confirm my surgery date of September 17th. He told me that this first surgery should have a recovery time of 2-3 weeks. I can expect to be in the hospital for 2 nights. The final reconstruction surgery will be from 6-8 hours and I can expect to be in the hospital for about 5 days. Such fun!

I don't know if it's because I got up and moving so early or anxiety or what but by the time I got home, I was starting to feel crummy. While he was measuring me, I felt briefly like I was going to pass out from a wave of nausea. That would have been a sight. My roly poly body splayed out on the floor in my cute undies for all to see. I was really nauseated and ended up taking a Zofran and crashing around 12:30. I felt yucky the rest of the day and took another before I went to bed. I didn't throw up, thankfully, but it was still like bad morning sickness. Yuck.

By the time I woke up this morning, I felt great. No nausea and a little spring in my step. Today is only Day 7! I feel good a day earlier than I have the last two chemo treatments. Woo hoo! The hair on my head continues to grow AND - I actually have a few eyebrow hairs starting to grow! Of course, they're in areas that will be plucked but hey, it's a start.

It's hard to believe but I had that annual exam that started it all just over 5 months ago. Time has really flown by. I'm doing really well. The good juju is working. Keep it up, please!

Xoxo...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chemo Treatment #12

Happy Saturday!
Thursday was my 12th chemo treatment.  It also means that I have just one more to go!  I really can't believe how quickly this time has gone by.  Sure, it's hardly been a picnic, but wow...  It's almost done!

I'm happy to report that I got a dosage of Ativan again plus a new anti-nausea medication called Aloxi. Between the two, I felt much better Thursday night than I did the prior treatment.  I was tired and starting to feel a little blah - but the nausea was at bay.  I also took a Zofran as soon as I got home, which helped me snooze for a bit, too.  I got a headache again, but just one extra strength Tylenol was all that it took to get rid of it.  I didn't feel great on Friday.  I was okay when I woke up but started to get increasingly nauseated as the day passed.  I was good about taking Zofran, which helped, but it does make me tired.  Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep, though.  Big surprise there.

I feel okay today, but I'm just really tired. I didn't get out of bed until well after 1pm.  I slept on and off all morning.  It's now 4:41pm and I'm thinking that a nap sounds wonderful.  I'm also thirsty as hell.  Nothing - and I mean NOTHING - sounds even remotely appealing.  Water grosses me clean out.  I have no idea why.  I have to force myself to drink it.  Flavored water isn't any better.  Oddly enough, milk and caffeine-free Diet Coke seem to hit the spot periodically.  Yeah, the thought of milk on a semi-queasy stomach is nasty to me, too.  I can't think too much about it.  My appetite is waning - which is the way the last few treatments went, too.  Of course, I say this after I polished off several pieces of pizza last night.  Surprisingly, it didn't upset my stomach at all.  Woo hoo!  (Hey, it's the simple things.)

I'm now down to 5 eyebrow hairs on my right side and 11 on the left.  I only have a handful of eyelashes, too.  It's not cute.  Not at all.  It kinda weirds me out and I look, well, creepy.  I know it'll all grow back but still.  It's really just comical.

Sorry that I'm rather boring.  I really don't have too much to report this time, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing.  I'm thrilled that I'm wrapping up chemo and definitely look forward to ringing the bell on August 16th.  I have an appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Gordley, on August 1st and I'll provide an update then.

Thanks for your continued support.  I can't say it enough - it means the world to me!

Adios for now...


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just a quick hello...

My hair is actually growing back!  It's mostly white still (gasp) but there are now real, live brown hairs growing in, too!  Woo hoo!  I genuinely haven't minded being bald, but having some fur on the noggin is pretty great stuff.  Sadly, the same can't be said for my eyebrows and eyelashes.  They're continuing to fall out - to the point that I've succumbed to drawing on my eyebrows.  If I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job.  It's too bad that Sharpie is so hard to remove, though.  I kid, I kid!  I bought some false eyelashes, but I'm waiting until the last possible moment for those.  The fact that they could fall off and land in my food or something is kinda gross...

I hoped that my nails would recover, but it looks like my left thumbnail isn't going to make it.  It looks like an old man's horned toenail.  Really gross.  It's lifted up a little bit, too.  Fortunately, there is good, healthy growth on all of my nails, but the nasty orange/brownish parts could still result in Frankenfingers.  Of all the things I could freak over, I guess this is pretty low on the list.  Still...  Just one more thing to add to the uglification of Nancy.

Overall, I've felt better this round than I did the last round.  Sure the nausea was pretty rough at first, but it's really the only significant side effect that I've had.  The fatigue really hasn't been as pronounced this time, either.  I would go so far as to say that at this point, the effects of Taxol were much harder on my body than FAC has been.  It's very unexpected, but hey, I'm not complaining!

This is a short little post, but I just wanted to check in and give a quick update.  I suppose no news is good news, right?

Thanks again for all of your support.  It's good shit.

xoxo

Enjoy this lovely picture of my thumb.  Kinda looks like a turtle now that I think about it.  Ew.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Next Stop - Mastectomy

Happy Monday!
Not too much has happened since my last post.  I continued to stay pretty queasy and refluxy through last Thursday, which was a full week after chemo.  I felt pretty normal on Friday and the funkiness had largely subsided.  I had lost about 5 lbs between throwing up and having really no appetite.  (I've since gained back a few, but who's counting?)  Interestingly, the fatigue hasn't been nearly as pronounced on FAC as it was on Taxol.  I'm tired, but in a normal way - not in an I-just-slammed-into-the-wall kind of way.  I really believe that overall, Taxol was much harder on me than FAC has been.  Sure, it packs quite a powerful punch, but I have less side effects as a whole.  Weird...

My head is now sporting very fine, very soft, white peach fuzz.  At this point, I don't care if it's purple.  I'd just like a little ground cover so I don't have to worry about hats, bandanas and wigs to avoid burning my noggin (And getting the "poor you" looks. Puke).  I'm down to about 10 hairs on each eyebrow and not much more than that on my eyelashes.  I don't want to lose them, but eh... At this point, it's just one more thing to add to the list.  No biggie.  I know it's temporary and I know it's crazy, but I just don't really care that much.  I pissed my vanity out the window months ago.

I saw my surgeon, Dr. Rourke, today.  She's great.  No nonsense, to the point, funny and kind.  Barring any delays with chemo, I'll have a month-long break for my body to recover and then I'll have my mastectomy surgery.  Right now, it's looking like that magic date is September 17th.  It should take about 3 weeks or so for me to recover and then I'll start radiation after that.  I won't have my reconstruction surgery for at least 6 months after the mastectomy.  This puts me into the early part of next year.

She did tell me that I do have another option; that I may not necessarily have to have my "good" breast removed at the same time.  I could have it removed during the reconstruction surgery and skip the expander portion altogether.  She said that's when they have seen funky infections on the good side crop up and throw the whole schedule out of whack. She said it's a bit like Murphy's Law.  Mess with something that doesn't need to be messed with and inevitably, something will go wrong.  She told me that Mr. Gordley (the plastic surgeon) doesn't always agree with that approach, so we'll have to see what he says.  I meet him on August 1st to go over the nitty gritty and then I'll meet with Dr. Rourke again to finalize the surgery.

She asked me what size I wanted to be afterwards.  Quite honestly, I'm fine with the size that I am now.  I definitely don't want to be any bigger, but I really don't want to be any smaller, either.  I'm currently a D/DD.  She laughed and said, "You do realize that with normal breasts, they tend to sag and hang over time and that implants are firm and tend to sit up where they belong, so if you went with a D/DD, it would be a force to reckon with!"  I laughed.  No way do I want cleavage up to my chin.  Not cute.  Ever.  Her recommendation was to consider a full C so that I could stay where I am now - at least visually.   Seems strange to go smaller to appear to be the same size but I do get it.  Pam Anderson, I am not.  Ew.  Since I could be going to a smaller size, the "wait until reconstruction for the good side" approach may not work, but again, we'll see what Dr.  Gordley says.

For the last 4 months, I've resigned myself to the fact that I didn't feel sick but that chemo was making me feel shitty so that it could kill the cancer.  It's a hard concept to wrap my head around.  Once chemo is done, though, I'm in full recovery mode.  I like that.  By all accounts, chemo is the hardest part and I'm almost done.  Sure, it will suck to have body parts cut off, but let's face it... Boobs are just the Christmas ornaments on this tree.  They're baubles that are pretty to look at but really useless otherwise.   I don't have to relearn how to function with fake ones.  I don't have to be on a transplant list.  Most importantly, I don't have to die.  Easy breezy to me.  Take 'em.

I've realized that my last several posts have been pretty bland.  I haven't had much color commentary.  Perhaps chemo is making me boring? Oy.  Bear with me.  I'll be funny again one day.  I promise.

Thanks for checking in on me and being so supportive.  It really does keep me strong and helps me fight that much harder.  Germ-free hugs all around!

xoxo