Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The best news!

I wanted to update everyone on the best possible news I could have gotten. I received a call this afternoon from both my oncologist and surgeon to tell me the pathology report showed no residual cancer in my breast or lymph nodes! I am beyond happy and relieved. I don't think it has fully hit me yet, as I'm still pretty fuzzy from all the pain meds. :)

I also want to thank everyone for all the very sweet messages sent the last few days. Eric read me each and every text and email that was sent and they definitely helped keep my spirits up. I couldn't have gotten through this without all your support and prayers. I have said this over and over, but it's more true everyday... I have the most amazing people in my life and feel so incredibly lucky.

When I'm feeling a little more clear minded I will write more about my surgery and how I am feeling.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

appointments... and more appointments

It's been awhile since I've written and I wanted to update everyone on how my appointments have been going since my final chemo treatment.

Last Friday I had two doctors appointments. My first appointment was with the Radiology Oncologist. Going into this appointment I really didn't know a lot about radiation except that it's supposed to kill what is left of (if any) the cancer cells inside me. I was called back to talk with a nurse who asked me a long list of questions. Most of the questions seemed pretty standard until she asked me if I had a living will. (blank stare) No, I don't have a living will and honestly until that very second it had never occurred to me to have one. Not one single person had ever brought this up to me before. I literally stared at her for what seemed like forever before I told her no. She then asked me if I'd like information on obtaining a living will. I wanted to tell her no but instead I said yes. When she left the room to get me the information, I began to cry. I immediately thought she was asking me this because she knew something I didn't know. My mind was racing. At this point I still hadn't received the results from my latest MRI. The doctor finally came in and of course the first thing I asked her was about my MRI results. She very happily told me the MRI showed continued improvement, which means the tumor was continuing to shrink! Siiiiigh! This was music to my ears. :)

My next appointment of the day was with the plastic surgeon. Again, I didn't really know what to expect except the Radiology Oncologist did tell me in my earlier appointment that going through radiation doesn't make me a good candidate for breast implants when undergoing reconstructive surgery. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this. I'd always just assumed that that's what I would do. The plastic surgeon did confirm this same thing. We went over a few different options and I have a lot to think about... but I have a lot of time to make decisions. I won't even be able to begin reconstruction for a minimum of 6 months after I finish radiation. So, I'm putting this in the back of my head for now.

I had my pre-op appointment today. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous for it. I think I've gotten to the point where I'm ready to get the surgery over with. I'm not saying I think it'll be easy, but I'm not scared like I was. Well, let me rephrase that... I am no longer scared of the surgery... I am still very much scared about the pathology report I will get back after surgery. I want to keeping moving forward with my treatment plan. No setbacks! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

round 16 - the FINAL!!

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.  ~Emmanuel

I completed my final round of chemo yesterday. It was an emotional day to say the least. I spent a lot of the day in tears, happy and sad. It was a bittersweet feeling for me to be completing my final round. I had anxiously awaited this day to come from the beginning, but, as I've said before you really do find such a comfort in being at the hospital, getting the chemo and knowing every time you are there it is saving your life drip by drip. Chemo was my security blanket. I felt safe with it. I think I'm ready to end my relationship with chemo now. The relationship has run it's course and I need to move the heck onnnn! :)

My first appointment of the day was a rehab appointment. We discussed the walking exercise and light weight training I will need to continue doing to prepare for the surgery. These exercises will get my body strong enough for the surgery and make for a much quicker recovery. We also went over some exercises I will do after surgery to continue with recovery and also prevent and take care of Lymphedema. Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked and causes swelling. It is a common problem caused by cancer treatment and the removal of lymph nodes. These are exercises I will have to work into my daily life. Lymphedema can pop up even years down the road, but I just look at it like positive changes I'm introducing into my lifestyle.

My next appointment was with Dr. Ellis. I'd been waiting all week to talk with her and ask her some questions I'd been worried about. Last week was a very tough week for me. I hit my all time low point. I was completely overwhelmed with anxiety and fear and there was nothing I or anyone could do to subside it. Last Monday when I couldn't sleep I began reading a woman's blog. Her blog was beautifully written and so inspiring. She seemed to have a very sweet and special spirit about her. I related to her on so many levels. We both had children, we both had triple negative breast cancer, we both had stage 3 and we both wanted desperately to live. Well, in the end this beautiful woman lost her battle and I felt like I was losing mine. I took it very personally. I had spent hours reading her every word and feeling what she was feeling on such a deep level. I know her story is not my story, I know this. But, the fear set in and I didn't know how to recover from it. When I saw Dr. Ellis, I began asking her many questions in what felt like desperation. I needed her to reassure me that I was going to be fine and we were doing everything we could to make sure that was going to happen. She'd never seen me like this and even said so. I asked her about the nodule on my lungs and the cyst on my liver. (two things I have never spoken of with anyone except for her.) I didn't intentionally not discuss this with anyone... or maybe I did. When she first spoke to me about them she reassured me they were not worrisome. I trusted her and still trust her. I was scared though and felt like if I talked about either of those things it may really put me in a place I didn't want to be. So, I kind of buried it until yesterday. She again reassured me that she was not concerned with my liver and lungs right now. She said we need to focus on what we know to be true and that is I am making enormous progress in my breast cancer. I believe her. I have an MRI scheduled for this morning and should have the results back within a day or two. I'm wishing, praying, crossing fingers and toes that they won't even see the tumor this time. I hope that anyone reading this can say the same prayer for me tooooo! :)

My brother, Josh, went with me yesterday. I was really happy to get to spend the time with him. We got to talk a lot... actually I talked a lot. He's a lot like me in the sense he's more of a listener and a processor. I obviously had a lot on my mind. Ha! But, he knew just the right things to say. :) I even got to see one of my longest friends, Malissa. She stopped by the hospital and I was so excited to be able to catch up with her. I haven't seen her in a few years, but it felt like just yesterday. She has been through cancer with her dad and had a lot of inspirational things to share. She is one of the most positive people I know and I hope some of that rubs off on me. I was able to open up to her about some fears I've been having and she completely understood them. We shared some tears and some great laughs. I left treatment feeling so lucky to have got to share my final treatment with two wonderful people. Thanks to both of you! :)

And to end the day on a great note, last night Eric planned a dinner with my family to celebrate my last treatment. It turned out so well. I truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by such a supportive and loving family. There were some that couldn't make it, but I know they were thinking of me and wishing they could be there. I love you all from the bottom of my heart and down to the tips of my toes! Thank you to Eric for planning this. You have been an amazing partner through this challenging time.

Tonight I will get to celebrate with some of my girlfriends who I also consider my family. These girls are my rocks and get me through every day. I'm looking forward to seeing their lovely faces tonight!

My days are filled with doctors appointments this week. Treatment yesterday, MRI today, therapy tomorrow, and then Friday I meet with my Radiology Oncologist and Plastic Surgeon. It's going to be busy, but next week Vanessa is on Spring Break and I will get to spend the entire week with both of my girls before I have surgery. I can't think of a better way to spend my time!  


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Round 15

Energy spent worrying about tomorrow's problems is energy taken away from enjoying today.

I finished round 15 today and have just ONE more to go. I'm still having the same mixed feelings I had after completing round 14. I talked to Dr. Ellis's nurse today who told me those feelings are completely normal and most people do feel this way. If chemo was a little easier on my body I'd maybe consider asking for a few extra treatments. ;) One thing that surprised me about chemo is that you're body (or at least mine) never got used to it. It has definitely got tougher the further along I get in my treatments. The side effects have became more frequent and harder to take as time goes on. I'm scared about the next phase... surgery. I so want all of this to be done with and behind me as much as possible. On the other side, my prognosis and plans for the future depend so much on what they find when they do the surgery. My understanding of the kind of cancer I have (triple negative) is that generally it is more likely to metastasize and has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer. However, if I achieve a complete pathological response at the time of surgery, my prognosis improves to about the same as other types of breast cancer. Complete pathological response means that the chemotherapy has completely eradicated the cancer. Studies show that about one third of triple negative patients achieve complete pathological response. Siiiiiiiiiigh... I really do believe in the quote above. It's just difficult to do in the quiet moments alone each day or lying in bed awake at night. Of course I am worried about a bad outcome, but I think the hardest part is the unknown. So, the surgery coming up is a very good thing. At least I will know what I am dealing with.

My very good friend, Jen, went with me to treatment today. She, like pretty much everyone else who has come with me had an idea of what a chemo treatment would be like. It really sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. Plus, the nurses and doctors at Swedish make the experience so much easier to take. Gosh, I remember how scared I was before I went for the first time. I think she was pleasantly surprised at how it went. One of my favorite parts of going to chemo is the one on one time I get with the wonderful people going with me. Life gets so busy and it becomes more difficult to find the time to catch up with the ones we love. I've really enjoyed the time I get with everyone who has come with me.

Brooke's daycare is closed this week and and I'm very much looking forward to spending some one on one time with her. :) Being with the girls brings so much comfort to me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alcohol and Breast Cancer... not worth it.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in November, 2010 I have had just a few glasses of wine. After reading the research in the link below, I'm reminded how not worth it it is. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Round 14

I completed round 14 Monday, March 28th and have just two more treatments to go! I'm having mixed feelings about ending chemo. Part of me is completely happy and cannot wait for that final day, but then there's a part of me that isn't ready for it to end. Every week when I go to treatment I find comfort in being there and imagining the chemo entering my body and killing any bit of cancer left in me. The end of chemo also means the end of this phase of my journey... which means I'm getting closer to the next phase of my journey. I'm a little afraid of that next phase. I know what chemo feels like. I don't know what not having breasts feels like.

My appointment yesterday went well. I met with Dr. Ellis and we scheduled the last MRI I will be having on April 12th. This will give the surgeon a good idea of what she's facing when she performs the surgery. Of course, she won't know the full story until she gets in there and sees for herself. The surgery is going to take about 3.5 hours. I opted to have two surgeons instead of just one. This will cut the surgery time in half. It seemed like a no brainer to go this route.

I haven't felt that great this week... I've been really tired and weak. I think this is all just taking a toll on me both physically and mentally. I just read an article about depression and cancer. It said it's almost impossible for you to be touched by cancer and not then be touched by depression. Just knowing you have cancer alone is tough enough, but then every single medicine that you have to take to fight the disease causes depression and anxiety. I think that is the #1 side effect listed on each medication I'm taking. Sigh... I don't mean to sound like a "Debbie Downer" because I do feel like I have been pretty positive throughout this whole thing. I think I'm just anxious for this all to be over and to have my life back to normal. 

I started the Active Program at Swedish last week. I met with a rehabilitation doctor who started me on a work out regimen. This will help me get the strength to be able to recover from the surgery much quicker. I went again on Tuesday and met with another doctor, Dr. Zucker, who went into a much more detailed plan for before and after the surgery. I thought the appointment would be more about physical care, but he talked with me about my mental care as well. He had such a calming effect on me that I started crying almost immediately after he began talking to me. When you have cancer (at least for me) you always try and make the people around you feel better about it.  But when I met with Dr. Zucker he made me feel like he really knew what I was feeling on such a deeper level than any other doctor I've met with. Here is a link to Dr. Zucker talking about his role in helping people living with cancer, live well. I recommend this program to anyone fighting cancer.