Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Round 13

Round 13 down and 3 more to go. That is nothing! I can totally do 3 more rounds. 

I went into round 13 very calm. The weekend before was incredibly relaxing. Friday night I spent a much needed day and night all by myself. I missed the girls and Eric, but still enjoyed my time alone to do nothing or anything I wanted. I ended up cleaning, but if you know me, you know that actually relaxes me. I'm weird... I know. ;) It pretty much took up my whole day as I still get very tired on Friday's with any sort of activity. I also rented a couple chick flicks, started watching Burlesque and fell asleep halfway through. The half I did see, I did enjoy. But, I fully admit I have horrible taste in movies. I'm a sucker for happy endings and will watch any movie that has some sort of happy ending. 

I then got to spend some time with two of my favorite people in the whole world, Jenny & Justine. They have been my longest and best friends since we were young. We took a drive to La Conner,  walked around the shops and ate out at some cute restaurants. We had lots of laughs, a little tears and more laughs. I needed this time with them to get my mind off my reality so badly and it worked. The weekend ended with a nice family dinner at Eric's moms house. It was a perfect weekend. :)

I planned to go to my treatment on Monday by myself (I really, really don't mind this). But, Eric does mind this. So, Melissa (Eric's sister) came with me and we had a nice time. She, like a lot of others really wanted to see what I go through during chemo. I think it puts a lot of peoples minds at ease. All the nurses and even the receptionists are amazing at Swedish. I am beyond happy with my decision to get my treatment there. 

My blood counts were good and have been almost every time since I've been on Taxol. When I went in to see the doctor, we talked about some upcoming things. I will be doing one more MRI before surgery to get an idea of what my tumor/lymph nodes look like. I will also be joining the "Active" program at Swedish. This is a program for cancer patients going through/after chemotherapy and also rehabilitation after surgery. They will put me on an exercise regimen designed specifically for me. Until several years ago, it was thought that exercise for cancer patients was harmful, but now they have found it crucial to recovery.  I wish I would have began this program much earlier, but hoping it's better late than never. I have been walking as much as I can. If it's nice out I'll take walks outside, but living in Seattle those days are few and far, so I found a walking video "on demand" that I do. I've also been taking Brooke with me to the mall and we just walk. She loves it and I love spending the one on one time with her. Although, this has gotten her in the habit of going and she's now asking to go daily. Oops! I may have started something there. As the doctor and I were discussing an end to chemo quickly approaching and how great that feels, she did let me know there is a chance of needing chemo again after surgery. We won't know if this is even an option until after the surgery and they see exactly what's going on inside me. I'm of course hoping this will not be the case, but am open to anything to treat me. She also mentioned a 20% chance that when I'm in surgery they will find no sign of disease at all. This would not change the plan of action to have the double mastectomy and she stressed how uncommon this is, but how great would that be! I'm hoping and praying this will be the case. 

After seeing the therapist the last few weeks, I have been having fewer panic attacks and the anxiety isn't as bad. Getting my fears off my chest is a huge relief and I recommend it to anyone going through this. I have a lot to still work on, but I'm doing the work and that feels really good. I'm still scared and likely will be until this is journey is over. I do realize this cancer shmancer business is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life in one way or another, but I'm gaining the strength and knowledge everyday to continue to get through this. I truly believe the changes have to be mind, body and soul. I will get there!!!  

I also want to share something with you all. This was sent to me from a very sweet woman I've never met, but feel as if I have. A very good friend of hers was also diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer a few years ago and two years later is cancer free. I relate to her words so much and feel like they could be mine.

Dear Cancer,

You came into my life a few months ago and caused me great pain. My heart was broken when I heard you were attempting to take my life. Many tears were shed and many screams into the nearest pillow I could find. To rid your disease my body was cut, poked and run down. I did not understand why you chose me. You caused extreme fear and worry for those that love me. You created a world for me that I did not want to be in. Your goal is death, but I would fight you hard. How can you stand the thought of taking a mother away from her two small children and leave her husband alone? Did you think I would allow this to happen? You made me sick and very tired and some days I could not sleep. You kept me up thinking what if..... You took away precious time from my children and family, time I cannot get back. You left my family helpless to watch me endure your motives. My mom and dad couldn't even fix this, they used to be able to fix everything. You took my sense of security of health and my hair. Most of all, you scared my children and I hated you for that. But not anymore.

It took some time, but I realized you are not in control. I am in control of how I remedy and handle what you have attempted to do to me. Although you are not a person, you are capable of doing what some people do to each other every day. I want to call you evil, but evil you are not. You taught me many things on this journey. Things I never knew before. You woke up my senses. Made me more appreciative for life and family. You allowed me to meet new friends to last a lifetime and build stronger friendships with those already my friends. Helped me see what true friends are all about. You made me humble. You showed me how loving and caring complete strangers can be. You made me realize how precious life is, and really how short it is. You taught me to not sweat the small stuff, there is always a bigger fish to fry. You made me want to get to know God, and place my faith in him. You are helping me be a better and a healthier person. You taught me patience and endurance. You made me want to help other women also embedded with your disease. You made me stronger, I can do anything now. You made me realize life can change in an instant, step back and enjoy the moment. You helped me get my priorities in order, what is more important. You allowed me to not take those I love for granted. I've learned that there are other people far worse off than me and not to feel sorry for myself. I've made you part of my life now, because you are. I will never forget what this journey has taught me. Better days are around the corner. It won't be long and I will have the ability to soak up my children's energy and appreciate it, my health, a new head of hair, and my head held high. Cancer, thank you for the lessons. Should you someday feel the need to come back and visit me, I will be ready for you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Round 12

Today was round 12, which leaves me with just 4 more rounds to go. Each week that goes by feels like a weight is being lifted from my shoulders. Especially after days like today. I wasn't so sure that would be the case after the nurse weighed me though. I gained 6 pounds this week. SIX POUNDS! (gasp!) It felt very similar to the time when I was pregnant and gained 12 pounds in one month. Even the nurse was surprised by this jump in weight. She tried to make me feel better saying it was probably just water weight from the steroids and said it would likely come off as soon as I'm done with the chemo. Fingers double crossed! Even though any weight gain (especially for girls) is very hard to take, I realize I have a few things I'm dealing with that are just a little more important. :) So, instead of dwelling on it, I've decided to pass on all the evils I love that all my friends and family like to bring me... carrot cake, brownies and chocoloate donuts. Grrrrr! The appointment did end on a better note. I got the pathology results for my thyroid... Low probability of neoplasm, consistent with a benign thyroid nodule. Basically, this means I have nothing to worry about. I will just have to follow up periodically to make sure it doesn't grow in size. Thennnnn, Dr. Ellis did another breast exam. She checked and checked and checked again and could not feel the tumor. She said had she not known my history of breast cancer she would not have suspected anything to be wrong. Dr. Ellis is typically very calm, cool and collected, but today when she was checking me I saw some excitiment in her I haven't seen in previous appointments. Her reaction gave me such a sense of relief. This seems like great progress considering where I started. I was diagnosed with a stage 3 triple negative breast cancer and now my doctor cannot even feel it. My tumor was so large it was visible by sight. I really do feel like my prayers are being answered. *tears*

My sister in law (to be), Janette, came along to my appointment today. She is also the lovely leader of "Team Margie" for the Susan G. Komen walk in June. She amazes me with everything she's doing and all the ideas she has come up with to raise money for this very important foundation. I'm so thankful for everything she has and continues to do for me and this foundation. I was happy to share this great day with her. :)  I even got a few surprise guests today - Jamie and Rachelle. They were both at the hospital today waiting for Rachelle's dad and a good friend of ours, Kathleen, to get out of surgery. Kathleen was donating one of her kidneys to Rachelle's dad. She is truly a selfless and special person. I cannot wait to give her a big hug when I get to see her.

I've had some really good days the last couple of weeks. I can feel my attitude changing for the better. I am back to feeling positive about all of this and even feel a little like myself again. I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My friend Amy sent me a text this evening that made me cry... a happy cry. She said "4 weeks and you start a new chapter. It's not quite the end of this book in your life but a chapter closer to putting the cancer book down. We will celebrate gynormously when it's done!" I very much look forward to that celebration with all the people who have helped me get through this journey. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Round 11

Round 11 down, 5 more to go! Treatment today went very well, except for the fact that I can't ever escape this insomnia I get every Monday night. Jenny, my best friend and other half since we were young girls went with me today. I loved having her. We spent a lot of time laughing and just relaxing. Chemo can actually be relaxing without all the side effects. The nurse switched up my pre-meds today. Instead of getting the benadryl directly in my IV, I took it orally. I was still a little sleepy, but made it through the entire treatment without falling a sleep, slurred speech, knocking something over and I even had full control over my body. Niiiiice! My treatments from this point on should go just as well with the switch. The nurse I had has gone through the same treatment as I am and had similar side effects to the medicine. When she recommended taking the benadryl orally I was ready to try anything. She asked me if I was feeling like I didn't have control of my legs... I said "more like my whoooooole entire body." Now if I could just figure out how to skip out on the steroids, then I'd be one happy, sleeping girl.

When I was talking with the therapist last week she recommended a book called "Bad Things Happen to Good People." As I was looking for that book tonight, I came across a book called "Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through." The title immediately caught my attention and felt like I needed to read this book. I didn't really know what it was about, I just knew I wanted to get through what I was going through. After reading the first two chapters, I learned this women endured a lot of pain in her life. Though, she has gone through some very different experiences than I have, I still felt like I related to her pains in many ways. Throughout my life, I have felt many feelings she had described. This book has already touched me so much. I read the first chapter three times and cried through the entire second chapter. The book sorta reminds me of therapy, you have to get through all the yucky pain and hurt before you get to the happy and the healing. I'm looking forward to reading on. :)

A passage from her book that I keep going back to-

"The breaking down into pieces of life is a painful thing to watch and even more painful to endure. Even more devastating is that as your life begins to unravel, day by day, piece by piece, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. You see what is happening. You know what is happening. And you want anything other than what is happening to happen. You see, somewhere deep inside, we all know that lives are not built to fall apart. That is just not what lives are meant to do. The lives we are given by God are meant by God to grow, to blossom and flourish. The reality is, however, lives do crumble.
I now realize that lives fall apart when they need to be rebuilt. Lives fall apart when the foundation upon which they were built needs to be relaid. Lives fall apart, not because God is punishing us for what we have or have not done. Lives fall apart because they need to. They need to because they weren't built the right way in the first place. I came to this realization one day, after many days, weeks, months, and years of trying to fix the cracks in my foundation. One day, one moment of time, as I sat helplessly surveying the broken pieces of my mind, heart, and life. I recognized that a broken life is a test of faith of the highest order."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lots of stufffff

This week was a busy one for me and I am writing this entry with the last bit of energy I have left. I wish I could share every detail of my week, but I think this post would turn into a novel. So, instead I will try and recap the events that stand out. :)

On Tuesday, I went with my sister Breanna to get the tattoo she's been planning to get since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She texted me one day and asked me what my favorite flower was. I assumed she was going to have flowers sent to me. Well, I was wrong. The next time I saw her she showed me a beautifully drawn picture of a peony with a breast cancer ribbon. The drawing was done by her very talented friend, Lisa. I of course was very honored she'd do this for me. So, when she asked if I'd go with her to get it done I said yessssss! The tattoo turned out amazing and I feel even more bonded with her.

Later that evening my parents, sister, the girls and I all went over to my brothers house to celebrate his birthday. It was nice to spend the evening with my family. I've always been very close with my family, but now more than ever I feel a strong need to be around them. Especially my daughters. I can't stand to be away from them. I miss them just knowing I'll be away from them. This has kind of always been the case with them though. ;)

Thursday, I met with my therapist. This is the same therapist I was seeing up until the September before I was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, I was finally just getting through a lot of things I'd been dealing with for many years. I was just beginning to feel like I was on my way to a really good and peaceful place... and then bam, I was hit with breast cancer and my whole world was turned upside down again. I knew I'd need to go back to her or someone, but was really nervous to make that step. Therapy is a tough thing to start, at least for me. I made the appointment on Monday, and by Tuesday I was trying to convince myself I didn't need to go. But, I am so glad I did. Even though cancer consumed my almost every thought, I was still in a little bit of denial about the whole thing. Just recently it hit me hard and I knew it was time to deal with all the emotions and feelings I have been having. I felt better as soon as I sat in the chair and began talking. I even look forward to my next appointment with her.

The next day, Friday, was the appointment for my thyroid. I imagined this appointment to be much worse than it was. I was still haunted by the biopsy needle that went into my breast I think. That is the needle I imagined going into my neck. Eeeek! I was relieved when the doctor described to me the actual procedure. It was quick and painless. He numbed my neck and then insterted three tiny needles that somehow get enough cells to find out if this thing on my thyroid is something to worry about or not. I'm choosing at this point not to worry. I've been reassured by a few doctors now that these nodules are extremely common.

That evening my friends planned an early birthday party for me. It was a wig/beach theme. I was super excited about this as I'm never really that comfortable being in a wig, but I'm also not that comfortable being bald when I'm in a large group. There was a definite sense of relief knowing that I wasn't going to be the only one in a wig. The guys and even a few girls did silly wigs that kept us entertained. By the end of the night we were all swapping wigs and having a lot of fun with it. The beach theme was equally nice because I have been craving a beach vacation so badly. I plan to hop on the first flight to Mexico or Hawaii as soon as I am done with all this crazinesssss. I had the best time and once again feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have these amazing people in my life. 

This may have been the best wig of the night.

I loved the purple wig the most!
Making the most important birthday wish I ever have!

My exciting weekend didn't end with my birthday party. The very next night I got to attend a very special baby shower for my friends Amy & Joe. This was not just any baby shower. This was an 80's themed baby shower with a DJ spinning all the best music from the 80's. Everyone was dancing and having the best time. I so wished I would have had more energy to participate. But it was still a great time watching from the sidelines. Justine came up with a really good idea. When this cancer business is all over, we need to have a real beach party with a DJ playing 80's music. I can't think of anything better! :)

Amy & Joe

I finished the weekend off spending the day with my daughters and niece. Then came home and had a nice mellow night with Eric and the girls watching our favorite show, Amazing Race. I'm very much looking forward to going to bed soon. Tomorrow will be round 11, which will leave me with just 5 more to go! I love that so so much!

This has been one of the best weeks I've had since all this began. I am looking forward to more weeks like this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Round 10

I completed round 10 yesterday, February 28th. I woke up feeling very emotional and irritable. This seems to be happening more and more lately. I was also very nervous that I would react to the medicine the same way I did the last week. My sister dropped me off to my appointment and was going to come in and keep me company for awhile, but I really wanted to be alone. I know to most people it probably seems more scary to be alone while going through this, but I sometimes find it easier.

One thing I would strongly recommend to anyone going through cancer or anything else life affecting at all is do not go online and search message boards. I did this last week and I really wish I hadn't. It started out with just simple searches such as gaining weight while on chemotherapy. The searches then moved onto women who have had recurrences of cancer within weeks of having their mastectomies. When I started reading these stories, I couldn't stop. I had a full on panic attack and I'm not sure it's gone away yet. It felt like the wind was literally knocked out of me. I haven't been able to get these stories out of my head. I know every situation is different and I can't focus so much energy on someone else's story. It's just so hard when I'm feeling so scared. But, I've made a promise to myself not do this again and I'm putting that energy into my own story... making sure it's a happy ever after.

I got to my appointment and did my blood tests. They were almost perfect this time. This just shows how much easier Taxol is on the body. The worst of it is the insomnia, body aches and easily fatigued. Those I will take any day to the AC effects. Every Monday before treatment I meet with Dr. Ellis and her nurse to go over the week before and what's to come. I've spent so much time with these women that they can tell pretty quickly when I'm not feeling well or if it's something else. Yesterday, they both could tell I was going through the something else. I broke down while talking with Dr. Ellis. I told her I was just really tired. She knew what "tired" meant and told me the feelings I'm having at this point in my treatment are to be expected. I've come so far, but I still have a long road ahead of me. She was very encouraging and told me I was doing great. That helped, but I still left there feeling very emotional. I even cried the whole time I was scheduling my appointment for the biopsy on my thyroid. I'm guessing the scheduling receptionist must see this a lot working in a cancer center. My biopsy is scheduled for Friday, March 4th. Still keeping my fingers crossed that this is benign!!!!!

I headed up to start treatment. I was completely drained from all the crying I'd just done and was ready for my treatment to begin so I could lie down and take a nap. I also wanted to fall asleep before all the meds started kicking in in hopes that I would miss all the side effects. I fell into a light sleep almost immediately and woke up over halfway through it. I was feeling  the benadryl and just kept telling myself I was going to be fine. I ended up falling back into a deeper sleep and when I woke up, I really was fine. :) I was a little more tired when I got home this time, but overall felt pretty well. Eric made dinner and made sure I had everything I needed all night.

Yesterday when I was feeling so many things and trying to deal with them all by myself, I realized it was time to see a therapist. I was seeing a therapist last summer and stayed in contact with her over email since my diagnosis. She, too, is a cancer survivor. She's offered to start seeing me again and until now I kind of pushed it aside. I emailed her yesterday and asked her if her offer was still on the table. She immediately wrote back and put me on her schedule for Thursday. I'm feeling a little afraid to do this and want to back out, but I know deep down it will help. I tend to (as a lot of you know) think I can deal with things on my own and what ends up happening is I keep it all bottled up. This way isn't really working out for me right now.