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!

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!


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


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.


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...

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.  


  • 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!  


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.