Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 156

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.  Today I had to go renew my drivers license.  I can hear you groaning with me.  My license expires on my birthday... which happens to be this Sunday.  Everybody knows a visit to the drivers license office is not a quick thing.  I ate breakfast while I was driving the kids to school so I could head straight to town, figuring earlier is better.  I brought a hoodie in case it was cold, and had my ever-present drink with me.  I was prepared to hunker down for however long my wait would be.  I would have brought snacks, too, but I wasn't that prepared.

The DPS drivers license office opens at 8am and I got there at 8:05am (I would have been there right at 8:00 but I went in the wrong door.  Don't blame me - last time I renewed online!)  I was #8 in the queue.  I sat down with the clipboard and my grape kool aid and started answering questions.  I was a little perplexed when the first number they called out was 200, but there were only a handful of people in there so I didn't think it was necessarily a bad omen.  Turns out I was right.  I had no sooner signed the bottom of the renewal form and they called my number.  I was in and out of there in twenty minutes.  That has to be a record!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 155

One thing I've been thinking about, and struggling with, is when do you claim to be cancer-free?

In the medical world, you need to be cancer-free (on scans, with no symptoms) for five years.  Now they really prefer the term NED (no evidence of disease) over "cancer free".  Most people with cancer aren't ever "cured".  They can be in remission, or live the rest of their lives with no sign of this monster, but there is no cure.  Some people claim NED or cancer free as soon as the cancer is gone from their body.  I'd like to think that my cancer is gone at this point.  I had eight rounds of some pretty harsh chemo which blasted my main tumor into fragments only millimeters in size.  I'm going to assume if it can do that to a tumor, the red devil and it's evil cousin Taxol must have done a number on any microscopic cancer cells hiding elsewhere.  According to my pathology report from surgery, I have negative margins.  That means there is an acceptable layer of healthy cells left around the area where the tumor and my cancerous lymph nodes used to reside.  So if chemo shattered my tumor and surgery removed what was left...... am I cancer free?  Do I wait until after radiation, because surely that will take care of anything that might possibly be left?

The fears and doubts that take up a permanent home in the mind of a cancer patient prevent me from being assured that we "got it all".  That's not to say I don't have faith.  I do.  I have confidence in my doctors, in my treatment plan, in myself, and I ask God every day to heal me.  I'm strong.  I feel healthy.  I feel like I'm kicking ass.  Being young, healthy and having a positive attitude goes a long way.  But I'm also hedging my bets.  Is there a tiny cell that broke away, traveled through my lymphatic system and is hiding on my liver, just waiting to invite some friends?  I won't know that for a long time.  At this point I'm not sure what kind of scans are in my future.  I don't know how Dr. H follows up with breast cancer patients, and even a clean CT or PET scan probably wouldn't put my mind at ease.  After all, three mammograms didn't show my Stage III cancer.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...Look at the birds of the air...and consider the lilies of the field. And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:25-34

I started writing this post last night when I couldn't fall asleep, and I just read that verse this morning.  Good advice, that.

I have no problem claiming the title cancer survivor.  I've been that from day one, and I will continue to be a survivor for as long as I'm alive - that means I'm winning and cancer is not.  I don't know that I will ever be comfortable saying I am cancer-free.  Maybe in about 40 years when I outlive all the life expectancy models mapped out for me.

I like the word survivor better anyway.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 154

This week Hubby and I got to spend some more time at one of our second homes.  Both my medical oncologist and my radiation oncologist are located at Texas Oncology.  Thankfully going to these appointments only requires a five minute drive, not the three hours it takes to get to UT Southwestern for my surgical appointments.  This is where I had four months of chemo, and it's where I'll go for daily radiation for about six weeks.

Yesterday we had an appointment with the medical oncologist (Dr H).  Other than some lower than normal blood counts, I seem to be rebounding well from chemo and surgery.  The next step (aside from radiation) for a breast cancer patient with a tumor sensitive to estrogen is to start hormone therapy.  That means taking medicine to block the estrogen in hopes of NOT feeding any more cancer cells.  (I'm no scientist so this probably isn't the exact explanation, but you get the gist of it)  Dr H says he would normally wait until after radiation to have a patient start this so you're not adding something else with side effects onto something already giving you side effects.  Since Dr T (my plastic surgeon) wants me to wait 6-8 weeks for radiation, Dr H wants me to start the hormone therapy now.

What are the main side effects you ask?  Think menopause:  hot flashes (which I already have and will probably get worse), joint pain (which I already have some and will probably get worse), etc.  I'm fine with starting the meds.... I can deal with whatever side effects it gives me because this will be one more weapon in my arsenal against this stupid cancer.  If my tumor liked estrogen, then I'm all for NOT handing estrogen out like candy to any rogue cancer cells that might be lurking.  While 40 is too young to go through menopause, if it means I can be cancer-free, bring it on!  Chemo technically put me there, at least temporarily, anyway.

Today we met with Dr Au (I know... I use initials for everyone, but I just think it's humorously ironic that my radiation oncologist's name is Dr. Au).  I really liked him.  For some weird reason, after all of the doctor appointments and tests and treatments and surgeries I've had over the last six months, I picked THIS appointment to be nervous about.  As soon as I saw Dr. Au's kind face, I was at ease.  He was happy to take his time, apologized for our wait (he was waiting for a call from the hospital on an emergency patient) and spent over an hour with us going over the ins and outs of radiation therapy.  He said as long as Dr H and my surgeons in Dallas are ok with the 6-8 week timeline, then he was ok with it, too.  So we have a tentative date of March 20th, which is when they will "simulate" and begin my plan, and I'll start radiation the next week.  If I heal faster and Dr T works his magic sooner than expected on the reconstruction part, then we can start sooner.  We'll hope for that.  I'm not sure what difference a few weeks either way matters now, since I've already had chemo and surgery, but I've learned with cancer, getting things done sooner rather than later is the better idea.

If you'd like something specific to pray for, please pray that I finish healing soon, I continue to improve my range of motion and we are able to head back to Dallas to visit Dr T sooner than expected.  (Hubby won't like that part - I think he's a little sick of road trips!)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 153

I have the best support system in the world.  

My husband, my rock, has been by my side since day one.  He never, ever complains and does whatever I need him to.  He goes above and beyond to take care of me every single day.  He holds me up when I'm down, he lends me strength when mine fails and he shows me love no matter what.  He is my lighthouse in this storm.

My children, the joys of my life, have been so understanding and so incredibly resilient.  They are happy and helpful and their smiling faces inspire me every day to say "#*!% you, cancer" and win this battle!

You already know how grateful I am for my mother... she has put her life on hold several times since d-day in order to come here to visit and take care of me.  There's no love like a mother's love and whether she's sharing herself with us here or cheering me on from New York, I'm thankful for her encouragement. 

I have so many wonderful friends both near and far who have rallied together to help me and my family.  They continue to take care of my children, have brought countless meals, gifts, smiles and love.  There are times when I almost feel guilty for their generosity, but I've learned that people truly want to help.  The best thing I can do is accept that help when it's offered.

Aside from all of the kind, thoughtful, caring people helping me here along the way, I have made some incredible connections online.  For months I've been posting online with a group of women who went through chemo the same time I did and we have lifted each other up during some very rough months.  I've also been lucky enough to stumble upon (ok, I was invited) a wonderful Facebook group of breast cancer survivors.  Most of them have already walked down this road, but some, like me, are still going through active treatment.  These ladies, my "Bellas", are some of the strongest, most courageous and supportive women I've ever met.  They share their stories, their wisdom, themselves, with each other every day and I can't imagine continuing down this road without them.  I'm so blessed to be a part of their sisterhood.

I'm lucky to have knowledgeable doctors in my corner.  I'm even luckier to have a wonderful family taking care of me.  The saying in that picture is the truth, though.  I have learned so much from the ladies with whom I share this fight.  To my BFF, to her mom, to my sis-in-law, to my 2013 chemo group, to my Bellas.....you are true warriors and your friendship has been as important to my healing as any medicine.  Thank you for being in the trenches with me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 152

We are a football family. For as long as I can remember I've been a fan of the Dallas Cowboys - and yes, I'm from New York. Growing up in Texas, Hubby is naturally a Cowboys fan.
I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow our son became a Packers fan.  I know, mind-boggling, right?

Last night we went out to eat with my stepson (also a J) and we were talking football since the Pro Bowl was on. My J was badmouthing the Cowboys defense and somehow it came up about his choice of teams. His brother asked how he ever became a Green Bay fan in the first place, and K pipes in with, "Maybe it's because of the cheese hats!"

I love my family!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 151

Today I did a dreaded annual chore that has nothing to do with cancer.  I cleaned out our file cabinet to make room for this year's paperwork.  Even going paperless with most things, we still have too many papers!!!  I threw some away, shredded some, and made one small file to keep in storage.  I still have a stack of my medical bills and insurance statements to go through, but that will be a project for another day.

I did notice something funny - on one of my insurance statements for my surgery, it lists Hubby as the patient.  When I told him, he said, "Well, I would have gone through it for you if I could, but I'm pretty sure I didn't so you should probably call them."

Add in four loads of laundry and this lady is done.  Time to rest before the recuperation nazis start hounding me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 150

Today I am 22 days post-surgery.  I don't know how my recovery is supposed to go, other than what the doctors tell me.  I've never had cancer before, so I've never had major surgery to remove cancer before.

I'm feeling good.... really good, all things considered.  Chemo did a number on me, so adding surgery a month later has me a bit more sluggish than I'd like.  My energy runs out quick.  But I'm able to sleep in bed, wash dishes, drive (thanks to no more drains!), get dressed, and even wash my peach fuzz hair by myself.  My only complaint is that I have some pretty significant discomfort in one particular area.  I'm not surprised that I'm uncomfortable. In fact, I'm surprised I haven't been more uncomfortable overall.  But this one spot in the crease of my left arm is just OUCH.

Logic says it's understandable because that was the cancer side, and my surgeon removed 24 lymph nodes.  To me that sounds like pretty extensive surgery... which means everything inside there has to do a lot of healing.  But it just feels so... raw.  Kind of like a rug burn, only on the inside.  My pain meds don't really help.  Resting that arm doesn't really help.

I don't know if the tissue expander (for reconstruction) is more uncomfortable on that side because of the extent of surgery done there, or maybe the expander has shifted a little and is closer to under my arm than the one on the other side, increasing the irritation.  My doctor just says, "Yes, that's the expander" and the nurse says "Take your pain medication" but my body just wants it to STOP.  I hope and pray that this is something that will get better with time.  I'll likely have the expanders in for the next 8-9 months.  That's a long time to have one really painful spot.

I don't want to be the "woe is me" cancer patient, though.  I'm banking on the fact that I have zero cancer cells left in my body.  If they're hiding, radiation (or laser tag, as my online Bella friends call it) will zap them.  I have eyebrows and eyelashes again.  My hair is growing (at a snail's pace, but it's growing).  My son got to spend two hours running his model trains at the train club today.  My daughter spent the day with her BFF.  I went shopping and Hubby spent the afternoon resting on the couch.

Life is good.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 149

If you read my post yesterday then you know how awkwardly funny it was to be asked if I'm breastfeeding by a nurse who obviously didn't know I no longer have breasts.  As soon as she left the room, Hubby looked at me and said, "I bet I know what you're blogging about today".  

Since I didn't get around to an actual update, I can do that now.  My breast surgeon was pleased.  She said everything looks good and "there is light at the end of the tunnel".  We don't have to go back to see her for three months.  An eternity!  She is referring me for physical therapy to help improve my range of motion on the left side.  I already know PT for the shoulder area is a bitch, so I'm not looking forward to doing it after this kind of surgery.  But, as always, I just keep kicking cancer's ass one day at a time, and this is all part of it.

I'm learning that plastic surgeons are picky, which I suppose is a good thing.  Dr T wants my cancer side incision to have more time to heal.  He's unhappy that I have to have radiation since that makes his job that much harder.  Since, in his opinion, I need more time, he recommended no radiation for 6-8 weeks.  I don't know what the standard protocol is or what risks, if any, there are in waiting that long for rads after surgery.  I do trust his opinion and don't think he would suggest something that would put me at risk, because as his nurse said, while we all want a pleasing cosmetic result, the cancer comes first.

Luckily he is open to monitoring my healing progress with photos via email to save us from making trips to Dallas just so he can "take a look".  Once he judges I've reached the point where he can start doing his thing, we'll have to go back to get started on the reconstruction procedures he can actually do before radiation.  

Next week I have a post-surgery follow-up with my medical oncologist.  I'm not really sure what this appointment is for other than to go over my surgery and keep an eye on how I'm doing.  The next day we will meet with the radiation oncologist.  We'll see what his opinion is on my radiation timeline and hope that it meshes with what Dr T wants.  It's strange to think that I might actually have a few weeks where all I have to do is rest and heal.  I shouldn't have any tests or procedures for a while... knock on wood.

I haven't said it in a while, but thank you to all of my prayer warriors.  I'm lifted up each and every day by your love and support, and it makes this bumpy road just a little bit easier to walk down.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 148

At my breast surgeon's office today, the nurse was asking all of the standard questions....

  • What medicines am I taking?
  • Do I have any pain today?
  • Have I had any falls lately?
  • When was my last menstrual period?
  • Am I breastfeeding????????????

I am not kidding.

I know they see a lot of patients and she probably didn't know my history or look at my medical record to notice my (very) recent surgery, but this is a BREAST CANCER center.

I was proud of myself. When she asked that (she was facing the computer away from me) my eyes got big and I looked at Hubby and we made faces at each other. We had a good laugh after she left.
The old me probably would have cried.  Score one for me!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 147

The good...

Since my first appointment in Dallas tomorrow is early enough that we don't want to have to get up and drive from Abilene, that means a hotel stay and spending the evening at the casino with Hubby.  One of these times we're bound to have good luck.  Right????

The bad...

I have two appointments with two different surgeons.  The first is my surgical oncologist.  Remember, she's the one I said is very thorough??  That means we are never in & out of there quickly.  The second is my plastic surgeon.  His office is much more efficient, but tomorrow is some kind of clinic there and they told us it will be a "crazy day" but they'll "squeeze us in" but we might want to "bring a snack".  Instead of a snack, my friend D is going to meet us again and she's bringing lunch.  And cupcakes.  So maybe that's not so bad.  :-)

The ugly...

Nineteen days and counting and I still have drains.  Not only that, but instead of the fluid decreasing, the one stubborn drain is increasing.  A few days ago I was hopeful that I'd get both of the drains out Thursday.  Now I'm planning on wearing these lovely accessories for the foreseeable future.  Blah.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 146

Contrary to popular belief, doctors are not all-knowing  (or at least they don't share everything they know).  There are so many things about breast cancer that you learn either on your own as you go, or from others who have gone before you.  One of the crazier things?  Cold drinks are REALLY REALLY COLD!  I didn't have a ton of... um... padding... to begin with, but now with none in the chest area, it almost hurts to drink something cold.  Think brain-freeze only in your chest.  Very weird feeling.  Why didn't anyone tell me this?

I had to shave my legs today.  I didn't miss that.  Too bad I can't redirect that hair growth to the top of my head.  Ha!  I'm so ready to be done with hats and wigs.  I told Hubby tonight that I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait until I have as much hair as he does.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 145

Today I did something I haven't done in about three weeks.  I drove!  Technically I'm not supposed to (per my surgeon) until my drains are out, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and this girl had to go pay her Sams bill.  I didn't have a hard time, but I wouldn't say it was very comfortable either.  Thanks to whoever invented the back-up camera!!  And thanks to my kiddos for helping because I can't pull the driver's side door closed with my left arm.  I only drove about three miles and that's about as far as I'd want to go right now.

I thought I had a radiation consult on Feb 6th.  They called this morning and I'm actually going next week.  I'm not sure I like that.  I was thinking the 6th was going to be pushing it on me being able to move my arms... next week is ridiculous.  All the range of motion exercises in the world won't help me lift my arm by then!  It is only a consult and not the start of radiation, but still.  I have a feeling I'm going to think Dr. Au is appropriately named.

Hubby is out of town today.  He's out of town tomorrow.  Then we are headed east again Wednesday because I have two appointments in Dallas Thursday.  Too bad we can't earn frequent driver miles... those points would be adding up lately!

I started yet another new medicine for my restless legs syndrome.  {knock on wood} My legs haven't been too bad lately, but I'm still getting that all over jittery feeling and I HATE IT.  We'll see if this new pill helps.  I'm not very optimistic.  It's kind of crazy that most of the meds they give you for RLS are the same ones they use to treat Parkinsons.  If they work for THAT, you'd think they'd work for stupid old restless legs.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr's Day!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 144

Let me just say that after you have breast surgery with lymph nodes removed, doing range of motion exercises, especially on the cancer side, really, really hurts!!!  

I can't start radiation until I can hold my arms over my head for 15 minutes.  At this rate I'm thinking that will be around August.

Kicking cancer's ass - day 143

Oops.... the blog Nazi (a.k.a. Hubby) informed me that I missed a day. I realized last night around 11pm that I hadn't posted yesterday, but I was in the middle of a meltdown and didn't really want to share it with everyone right then. I will now.
One of the strangest things has started happening: I get a sudden jittery feeling like I'm going to jump out of my skin. It's not just restless legs syndrome.... although that goes with it. It's restless BODY syndrome. All of the sudden, out of the blue, I can't sit still and I feel like I want to run around the room tearing my hair out. Well, if I had hair.  My arms get restless and my legs get jumpy and I just feel like my body is protesting everything that it has been through.
This happened about two minutes after I turned the lights out and settled into the recliner to go to sleep last night.  I tried to ignore it but it got worse and worse so I eventually went in and woke Hubby up. Not that there was anything he could do (other than hold my hand and talk me down off of the ledge) but misery loves company and all that.  This isn't the first time it's happened, but when it shows up like that, late at night when I'm so tired, it is extremely frustrating.
I eventually took one of my nausea pills that make me sleepy in hopes that I could finally drift off. After a while it worked. This whole thing is a mystery though. I'm not sure if one of my meds is causing this, or if it's some crazy residual thing from my surgery or just another cancer thing.... The gift that keeps on giving.  Whatever it is, I do NOT like it!!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 142

I was typing the subject of this post and accidentally put day 242.  Wow.  I wonder where I will be (mentally and physically) in another one hundred days.

Where I am today is tired. I slept later today than I have since my surgery and yet I still felt so tired. We all went to the movies this afternoon and I ended up dozing with my head on Hubby's shoulder. I could have gone to bed at 8pm without batting an eye.

I'm also sad. Grammie leaves tomorrow. She has been here taking wonderful care of my family for the past two weeks. I will miss her being here to get the kids up and ready for school. I will miss her washing my dishes before I even know they are dirty. I will miss her washing my hair for me. She has done laundry and driven me places and even emptied my drains. I mostly will miss her company. I have never needed so much help in my adult life, and having my mom here during one of the most difficult times I've experienced has been so so good for me, and for my kids. She is a wonderful caretaker, a sweet Grammie and a loving mom.  She's amazing and I'm going to miss her love and her light.

If only New York wasn't so far away...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 141

Today is Thursday, which means a trip to Dallas for me and Hubby.

While we were gone, Grammie had lunch with these two cuties:

I had an uneventful appointment with my plastic surgeon's nurse.  The good news is I'm healing well and she said my skin looks great.  The bad news is I still have my drains.  <sigh>  

My friend D came to hang out with us in the waiting room again and afterward the three of us had a yummy lunch.

Even though I didn't do anything more than sit today, the road trip wore me out.  Riding for six hours and climbing in and out of Hubby's truck several times is a lot rougher than lounging in the recliner.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 140

Random musings...

Sneezing after surgery for breast cancer is really, really bad.  Even 11 days later.

Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr and JLo make a very beautiful judges panel on Idol.

I'm an expert at packing snack bags for road trips, and yet we always end up stopping for a drink and a snack.

I'm going to really miss my mother. Having her here the last week and a half has been more wonderful than I can say. I hope she knows how much her help has meant to me.

Tomorrow a boy dear to my heart is having yet another surgery for his ear. Please say a prayer for my BFF's son Z. Hugs and love coming from Texas!

Speaking of surgery... Two of my chemo "sisters" are having surgery tomorrow. Kick some cancer ass ladies!!!!

My daughter dressed all in black today "like a spy".

I'm going to be disappointed if I come back from Dallas tomorrow and still have drains.

I have been getting dressed by myself for several days now, but today I even managed to do that with a pullover shirt. Thank goodness... I was getting tired of the same four zip up hoodies!!

Hubby has five substantial road trips in the next eight days. Please pray for safe travels for him/us.

Lately we've had a black cat hanging around our backyard. Today he brought a friend. Not sure what's so fun about my yard for these cats, but they spend quite a lot of time out there. 

The one benefit from chemo (aside from killing cancer) is no more..... I've had to start shaving my legs again.

It has been 168 days since d-day.
It has been 140 days since my first chemo.
It has been 12 days since my surgery.
I will be very happy when I can add "last radiation treatment" to that list.

Thanks for thinking of me, helping me and praying for me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 139

It's so easy to take for granted being self-sufficient.  I am forty years old and have been taking care of myself for a long time.  I've been taking care of my family since 2001.  It's very frustrating when you are used to doing things for yourself and all of the sudden you can't even pour a glass of iced tea or push a shopping cart in the grocery store.  However, it's gratifying when you do start making strides towards self-sufficiency again, no matter how small.

I've figured out how to shower on my own.  The plastic surgeon told me 48 hours after surgery I could shower as long as I didn't get my drains and incisions soaked.  The first few times I tried just standing and using the hand-held shower head but I'd end up freezing while this little trickle of water landed where I directed it.  I gave up on that and started taking baths, but it's hard to get up from the tub without using my arms!  Yesterday I discovered that I could hook the hand-held shower head in the shower caddy and point it down.... that way I can keep my legs in the spray the whole time (and not freeze) and have my hands free to carefully wash the rest of me.  See?  Baby steps.

Anyway, it may take me twelve hours, but it's so nice to be able to get 100% ready on my own.  Hubby joked last night and said I just thought it took me a long time to get ready before when I had to do my hair every day.  No kidding.

Out of the mouths of babes.... last night after watching Hotel Transylvania with the kids, Hubby and I went in the bathroom to change the dressings over my drain sites.  When we eventually came out, K looked at me and said, "How long does it take to change a bandage anyway?"   
Exactly.  Welcome to my world.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 138

So.... today is Monday.

I tackled a shower, which has been a monumental task for me lately.  My mom even washed my hair for me (well, more like stubble, but still).  Do you know when you learn to appreciate hair?  When you don't have any!  It's very ironic that I had finally made up my mind to color my hair about a year before d-day.  My hairdresser had been doing a great job keeping up with the color my friend T started, and even my crazy, curly hair was behaving in between trims.  Figures my hair would finally start looking great right before I lost it.

Grammie and I ventured to the grocery store to pick up a few items.  Somehow I ended up spending $120 even though we were just there on Friday!  Yikes.  It felt good to get out and walk around for a while, though.  Sitting in the recliner gets old when you spend night & day there.  We stopped on the way home to pick up lunch and thought we would be settling in for a quiet afternoon.

Our day went downhill from there.  J called from school because he didn't have enough money in his lunch account.  They usually send me an email when his balance gets below $5.  I never got an email.  So we raced off to school to give him some money.  Unfortunately he thought we were bringing him lunch, not lunch money, and he said that there wouldn't be anything left to buy now.  Again, we raced off to home to get him some food (which happened to be the food we had brought home for our lunch) and back to school again.  At this point he only had about five minutes left to his lunch period, so we went in & sat in the office with him while he ate.  The secretary was really nice & wrote his teacher a note so he could be late to his next class.  All's well that ends well, but it was a pretty hectic thirty minutes!  Hate seeing my boy upset.

We eventually got home again & half-heartedly ate some lunch.  Grammie ate her lunch that we brought home (which happened to be my lunch since they messed up our order) and I ate some leftover snacks from football Sunday.  Then, as I'm finally resting in my recliner, Grammie ends up cleaning up a 12 pack of Gatorade that the cat threw up on.

Is it bedtime yet??

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 137

So many people with a cancer diagnosis begin their journey with an ass-kicking attitude.  Some are defeated (mentally and/or physically) from the beginning.  A lot of cancer patients will show their true colors as they fight to save their lives.  And some show such faith and courage and strength that they amaze us all.  My friend Allyson is one of those.  I don't normally name names on my blog, but her name deserves to be said.  I've spoken of her before, and I'll speak of her again.  She is one of the kindest, funniest, and most loving women I've ever known.  She was one of my first "mommy" friends and in the early years of our friendship we shared a passion for our little boys (born a month apart), snow cones and country music.

Allyson has been fighting ovarian cancer for over six years.  I would appreciate it if you would take the time to read her latest blog post and say as many prayers for her and her family as you can.

My Three Sons: All I Can Say

Allyson's courage in the face of such a long, awful battle with her Monster is astounding.  The way that she continues to be true to herself and true to God and spread her light to those around her is inspirational.  Since my diagnosis, she has been there for me with words of wisdom and words of love.  She has laughed with me, cried with me and prayed for me.   I never wanted to have this (cancer) in common with anyone, but I'm glad I can understand in at least a small way what it is like to walk a day in her shoes.  She told me early on that she will do whatever she can to help me, and I'm thinking, "You're dealing with your own Monster....you're the last person who should be offering anything!"   She told me that if she can use anything about her fight with cancer to help me, she would be glad.

We all have our faults and nobody is perfect, but Allyson is one of the few people in my world that I would have a hard time saying anything negative about.  My heart is heavy for her, but my ass-kicking mojo is getting kicked up a notch because I really, really hate cancer.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 136

Thursday Hubby and I had to go to Dallas for follow-up appointments with my surgical oncologist and my plastic surgeon.  It was six days post-surgery and I was feeling pretty good.  I still move very gingerly and can't use my arms, but my energy is increasing by the day and the three hour drive each way plus two doctor visits didn't wear me out as much as I expected.

First we saw my plastic surgeon.  Would you believe we arrived nearly 45 minutes early for our appointment and they actually called us back pretty much right away??  In fact, we were in and out of there before my actual appointment time.  Anyway, he said things looked pretty good and he thinks we'll be very pleased with the final result (which we won't have for a long, long time).  I also had two out of my four drains removed which was good.  If you know anything about drains and surgery, you know what I'm talking about.  If you don't, I will say no more and spare you the gory details.  We have to go back next Thursday for an appointment with his nurse so she can check my healing progress, and then see Dr T again the week after that.

The appointment with my surgical oncologist wasn't quite as cut and dry.  First of all, they never call us back quickly, and once they do call us back, we wait forever and a day for Dr L to come into the room.  This doesn't go over well with Hubby, especially when it is 78 degrees in the exam room.  Not kidding.  Dr Leitch finally came in and examined me and seemed pleased.  She explained what went on during my surgery and why certain things looked or felt the way they do.  She also had to re-stitch one of my drain tubes because apparently that stitch got cut when they removed my other drain.  Oh right, I promised not to talk about that anymore.  Onward.....Dr L really took her time with me, making sure everything was clean and sterile and securely bandaged up tight before she let me off the table.  She's very thorough, I might have mentioned that... which also explains why we wait so long to see her.  I did get a little light-headed and started seeing stars shooting around while I was lying there waiting.  Hubby said it was probably a combination of being flat on my back for the first time in almost a week as well as knowing what she was about to do.

After the exam, she talked to us about the pathology report from surgery.  It was mostly good news.  There was no cancer on the "good" side at all, and no need to worry about the lymph nodes on that side.  Yay!  From what she removed on the cancer side, the margins were all negative.  In case you don't understand cancer-speak, that means the skin and tissue remaining that was connected to what she removed shows no evidence of cancer and the "margin" or distance between where the cancer was and what is left is acceptable so we don't worry about anything lurking behind.  Some doctors will say there were "clean margins".  Either way, it's a good thing.  That means whatever cancer remained in my breast and lymph nodes after chemo was removed during surgery.  So Dr L did some cancer ass-kicking herself!

There was some not so happy news.  During surgery Dr L removed 24 lymph nodes, and 9 of those showed evidence of tumor cells.  That doesn't mean they all had cancer and chemo didn't kill it.  It means that my lymph system did it's job and caught these tumor cells trying to leave my breast.  It also means that I need radiation.  I wasn't shocked, because before I even started chemo, Dr L said I most likely would.  After my great response to chemo, though, the possibility of avoiding radiation was mentioned.  So be it.  I've cleared two big hurdles with chemo and surgery... I say bring it on.  Radiation will just be another weapon in my arsenal against cancer. 

I am feeling stronger every day and am able to use my arms a little more, although I'm still very sore and both doctors warned me against lifting them above my head or lifting anything heavier than a carton of milk.  I'm doing my best to rest, rest, rest so my body can heal, but never having had major surgery before, I don't exactly know how much is doing too much.

Obviously my journey is far from over.  Once I heal from this surgery, I will have weeks of radiation and then most likely several reconstruction surgeries.  I won't know the timeline for radiation until I meet with the radiation oncologist and my reconstruction timeline will depend on how long it takes me to heal from the radiation.  Talk about a chain reaction.   Please keep me and my family in your prayers as I continue to kick cancer's ass day by day.

Kicking cancer's ass - day 135

Time flies when you're doing nothing! I actually missed a day of posting, and I can't even blame it on being too busy. Because let's face it... I AM busy recuperating, but there's not a whole lot to that besides sitting around and trying to listen to my mom when she tells me not to over do things.
Yesterday we ventured out to Walmart. Most people have a love/hate relationship with Walmart (or really a hate/hate). I don't mind it. Where else can you buy lipstick, body wash, coffee, apples, ice cream and a sports bra???
My friend K brought us lunch yesterday...a girl could get used to these meal deliveries! We've had at least one a day since I got back home from surgery. My friends are awesome!
It's going to be a rude awakening for me when people stop bringing me things and my mom goes back home and I'm actually in charge of taking care of my family again. <sigh>

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 134

So you all know I had surgery, right?  Pretty major surgery that means I can't really use my arms or upper body much.  What do you think happens when I shut the bathroom door in our house which likes to "settle" and rearrange walls and door frames by a few millimiters?  Yeah, I got stuck.  I tap, tap, tapped on the bathroom door (K was sleeping in our bed so I didn't want to pound on the door announcing my helplessness and wake her up in the process).  Nothing.  I sort of half called/half whispered Hubby's name.  Nothing.  I tapped on the door again.  Still nothing.  I knew he should be either in the room or coming soon because he told me he was going to bed.  Finally, just when I thought I would end up curled up on the bath mat for the night, I knocked on the wall away from the bedroom, and that did it.  Hubby heard me and came to my rescue.  Seriously - I can't even pull open a stuck door.

Another thing - today we took Hubby's truck to Dallas for my appointments.  Hubby drives a pretty big truck that I normally have to pull myself up into.  That becomes a problem when I can't use my arms to pull myself anywhere!  If you have or ever have had little kids, you've probably owned one of those plastic, colorful "One Step Ahead"  step stools.  Well, aside from helping little kids reach the sink to brush their teeth, this little stool is also perfect for giving me an extra boost into a Dodge Ram 2500.  Every time we stopped and I had to get in or out, Hubby would place the stool down at my door and help guide me in or out so I didn't use muscles I'm not supposed to be using.  He even thew in a "Your chariot awaits" once or twice.  See why I love him?  He also ended up carrying my purse around all day because as usual, it has too much crap in it and probably weighed more than the weight I'm allowed to carry/lift at this point.  What a guy!

Last, meet my friend D.  She is a fellow cancer ass-kicker (twice!!!).  She lives in Dallas and we finally coordinated our schedules enough to be able to see each other.  Not only is she smart and funny and nice, but she's very patient and waited with me at my doctor's office (and even waited a LONG time for me after Hubby and I went into the exam room) so we could have a nice chat.  I'm so pleased I finally was able to spend time with her, although next time we are attempting lunch which sounds infinitely more appealing than visiting in a waiting room.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 133

Well, I have 36 minutes to get today's post in on time.  It's 11:24pm and despite dozing off earlier during Despicable Me 2, I am still awake.  I can't really make this one an insomniac blog, it's more a restless legs syndrome blog.  <sigh>  This is the first time since my surgery that my RLS has bothered me enough to keep me up.  I really, REALLY need some of those inflatable leg wrap things that I had in the hospital.  Did I mention that?  Those would be lovely right about now.

Grammie says I was "perkier" today than I have been so far, so that's good.  I didn't accomplish much of anything, though.  Had a nice visit with R who stopped by with lunch and Christmas presents for the kids.  (No, Christmas really doesn't ever end in this house)  I've been trying to rest up because tomorrow we have to drive back to Dallas for two appointments.  Just a day trip this time, so I'm sure I'll be nice and exhausted by the time we get home.

Hopefully I'll get a "everything looks good" report from both doctors, and we should receive the pathology report from my surgery.  I'm not really sure what to expect from that.  No leftover cancer would be fantastic, but we'll see.  One bright spot in my long, tiring day will be meeting face to face a special lady in Dallas.  When I first started this journey we crossed paths on a message board on www.breastcancer.org and she invited me to a Facebook group of women who have undergone or who are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer - the Bellas.  They are the most amazingly supportive group of women, and they are always there with a virtual hug, an answer or a shoulder to cry on no matter what time it is or no matter what the issue.  I get to meet D in person tomorrow in between my appointments and I'm so excited to give her a (gentle) hug and see her smile.

I took a pain pill before bed tonight.... I wish that would make me sleepy enough to ignore my restless legs.  But for now, it's just me and Shadow prowling the living room.  See?  I told you I have the life of a cat.

Kicking cancer's ass - day 132

This was my view for most of the afternoon.  I've discovered that recuperating from surgery is a lot like living the life of a cat.  I just sit around sleeping a lot and waiting for someone to feed me.  After four months of chemo and then this surgery, I understand more than ever the saying "weak as a newborn kitten".  My stamina is completely shot and just taking a shower and getting dressed completely wears me out.

When I thought about having surgery for breast cancer, I really thought the worst part would be the pain or discomfort, or dealing with the drains like so many people complain about.  None of that is fun, but one of my biggest issues is how weak and shaky I am.  There's a fine line between being up & about to build your strength and being up & about and doing too much.  I want to heal well so I'm trying not to do too much too soon, but it's a tough pill to swallow when even the simplest of tasks make me feel like I could pass out.

I want to send a huge shout of appreciation out to my mom.  Grammie is here for two weeks to be with me and help with the kids.  Hubby is fantastic at taking care of me - I couldn't ask for a better partner.  Having Grammie here, though, means he can go to work while Grammie takes up the slack here.  She has been wonderful, making sure I have everything I need, getting the kids up & ready for school and doing all of my usual "mom" duties to keep my house running smoothly.  I'm so grateful to have her here with us.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 131

I'm tired. I didn't accomplish anything today aside from taking a shower, but I have to keep reminding myself that three days ago I had major surgery. Today I've been awake since before 6am with no nap (not even the pain medicine-induced kind).  I stayed up long enough to enjoy the second of many home-cooked meals delivered to us by friends this week, and then I promptly started dozing in my chair.  Not even the excitement of the national championship can keep my eyes open.
Tomorrow is a new day... we'll see what it brings.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 130

Having surgery for breast cancer is kind of like a science experiment.  There are incisions and tape and all kinds of tubes and drains, there are several different medicines to take and then even more medicine to take to combat the side effects of the other medicines.
You probably don't want to hear about all of that though. I'm home, I'm doing pretty well and I'm extremely thankful that I have my hubby and my mom here with me.  My kids were happy to see me (they even made signs and put them up welcoming me home).
Now I just have to do nothing but rest, recuperate and build up strength... oh, and go back to Dallas again on Thursday for follow up appointments with my surgeons.  It is at the appointment with my surgical oncologist that we should get the pathology reports from surgery... And those will hopefully say that I have successfully kicked cancer's ass!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 129

Things I've learned in the hospital:
.. It's not as fun being in the hospital when you're not having a baby. The only other times I've had a hospital stay were when I had my kids. Getting to hold a cute little newborn makes up for feeling pain and discomfort!
.. I do not like peas. I definitely don't like peas in chicken noodle soup! The food here is decent, but really... who puts peas in chicken noodle soup?
.. I have got to get me some of these inflatable leg pump things. They would go a LONG way toward helping my restless legs syndrome!! I love them. Think anyone would notice if they disappeared into my suitcase?
.. I hate hospital gowns. I was a thousand times happier once I got cleaned up and into my own pjs.
.. Having a mastectomy makes you feel like you bench pressed 500 pounds. Not that I know what that feels like exactly, but i imagine it's a similar feeling.
.. My hubby is an excellent caretaker. He has been phenomenal... right there to help me up or hand me my chap stick or get me a drink. I bet he's probably almost as exhausted as I am. I love him.
.. Sonic sweet tea is YUM, especially when you're extremely thirsty.
.. Nurses are very concerned with their patient's bathroom production.
.. Oral pain meds are not nearly as effective as the morphine pump.
.. Something about surgery made my hands swell and I haven't been able to put my wedding rings back on. This bothers me.
.. I thought I would be sad when I saw my incisions for the first time. I wasn't. I think of them as battle scars, and wear them proudly since I am kicking cancer's ass!!

Kicking cancer's ass - day 128

I know I'm a day late posting this, but maybe you'll forgive me since I was unconscious for most of the day and then loopy from my morphine pump. Yesterday was the big day.... Surgery to rid my body of any remaining evidence of cancer. Woohooo!
I was in surgery from 9am - 4pm, and I woke up in recovery around 5pm. My surgeon said everything went well and there were no surprises, so that's good.  I didn't think to ask any specifics such as how many lymph nodes she removed or how much of the tumor was left. If I don't see her tomorrow I will ask those questions at my follow up on Thursday. That's right.... We get to make this fun 3 hour drive and back again just a few days after I get home. How exciting!
Surprisingly my surgeon asked if *I* wanted to stay another day. Apparently she thought I was doing well enough to go home today. That's crazy!!!! I told her I'd rather stay, especially since we have to travel so far home.
Speaking of traveling... Grammie is in Dallas right now on her way to Abilene to take care of the kids until we get there and then to take care of all of us when we get home. She gets to stay for two weeks and I'm so thankful that I'll have her around during this time.
Some other travelers surprised us yesterday - Hubby's uncle and aunt drove up from Waco to see us and be with him during my operation. We really have a lot of amazing, caring people in our lives.
To everyone who is saying prayers for us, keep them coming. They are working!!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 127

28 hours until I have to report to the hospital for my surgery. Is it any wonder insomnia has struck?? 
I have to check in tomorrow (today) at 9:30 for pro-op testing, whatever that is. I think a nap will be in order, although I don't think we can check into our next hotel until 3pm.
I should really try to get some sleep, although getting only 3 hours of sleep really does nothing but piss me off and make me more tired. (Yawn)
At least Hubby is snoring away...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kicking cancer's ass - day 125

Happy New Year!!

I told Hubby the only thing I planned to lose this week was my cancer. I won $200 in the weekly football pool and tonight I won $5.20 at NYE poker with our friends. Tomorrow Hubby and I are headed to the casino where I hope to win some more. (Although if I walk out of there ahead by even $5.20 that will be an improvement over the last few trips!!!)

Friday is my surgery and I will lose some cancerous body parts and start the new year off right with a clean slate. I'm nervous, scared, sad and angry, but I'm also ready!! I've never had to bring my ass-kicking attitude into surgery, but I will. January 3rd is the day I truly kick the rest of my cancer to the curb. Hallelujah!