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!!!!!!


                                                       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


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!