Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm on the verge of one incredible month


As we're all aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Now, October has a new-new meaning to me.  This October I am celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness month as a Survivor.  October 14th marks my official One Year Survivor mark.  It’s kind of hard to believe that I’ve been cancer free for one year considering it’s only been 5 months since my last chemo, 2 months since my last cancer-related surgery and I still have at least 2 surgeries remaining.  But, technically, my cancer was surgically removed from my body on October 14th, 2013.  I believe a celebration is in store (I love celebrations!!).
October 2nd I’ll be attending the Launch Party for Inside New Orleans magazine at SAKS Fifth Avenue.  Along with 23 other survivors, I will be featured in the first edition of Inside New Orleans magazine that will be on newsstands October 1st and delivered to 30,000 recipients in the area.    

October 16th I will be attending the NOLA 2015 You Night New Orleans Launch Party.  A group of women put together an event on the North Shore in 2013 to honor and empower survivors.  Last year this event had 500-600 people.  This year, the North Shore event is October 9th and the New Orleans event will be in March 2015.  I will be walking the runway at the You Night NOLA event in March.  The launch party on Oct 16th is at Fulton Square, sponsored by Harrah’s Casino and open to the public. 
October 17th is still Court’s Birthday but this year I, among other survivors, am being honored at The Pink Gala.  I will be walking the runway as a Survivor, styled by BCBG.   This event is put on by the New Orleans Living Magazine and Television. 
Our team is slowly growing for Race for the Cure on October 26th.  There’s still time to sign up!  I think this is the right link:
http://neworleans.info-komen.org/site/TR/RacefortheCure/MTR_NewOrleansAffiliate?team_id=309538&pg=team&fr_id=4376

My appointment with my Oncologist a few weeks ago ended up being uneventful.  She seems to think things are going well for me and ok’d the removal of my port.  The plan is to remove it on December 4th when I have another reconstruction procedure at the fancy hospital.  I almost had to get it removed sooner because when I went to get my port flushed there was something wrong with it.  Luckily we don’t need to use it anymore so no tests were done to find out what is wrong with it.  All the more reason to get it taken out.  Luckily it can wait until December and I don’t need another surgery.

Disclaimer: I am no model nor do I intend to become one.  (I mean, unless someone wanted to pay me lots of money, give me a uacht, give me a bigger house with a house keeper, chef, driver, dog walker… J  These events are honoring Survivors, I was not picked by looks or personality but I know I score high in both areas. Ha! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Race for the Cure 2014

Race for the Cure is coming up and it'll be the 3rd year for our team Kickin’ it Pink to participate. I just registered Micah and myself so our team is going strong with 2 participants :) If you plan to do the race and don’t have another team to sign up with please join our team! We don’t really do anything special but we could!

Tomorrow morning I have my 3 month checkup with my Oncologist, Dr Barnhill. I’m not expecting much excitement but I guess you never know. From what I understand, this is an appointment to discuss any new symptoms I have and to figure out what should be done about them. The only way we can tell that something is wrong is if I have a symptom that indicates further testing is needed.

As far as I can tell I don’t have any symptoms needing further testing. I will tell Dr Barnhill that I was having headaches but I think they were from clenching my jaw while I slept. My right wrist hurts but I think that’s from being on my phone too much (kind of embarrassing!) I had an appointment with my OB/GYN a few weeks ago and my test results were negative. I had my checkup with the surgeon who does the biopsies and he had no concerns. I’ve been seeing my surgeon who does my reconstruction surgeries on a regular basis since July 17th and he doesn’t seem to have concerns besides how I’m healing from my surgeries. So I think I’m ok. I hope I’m ok. I'll let you know how the appointment goes.



Our 2012 team

We have lots of fun!

2013 was a little colder
 
2012

Cristie will be missed this year

California Kickin' It Pink team members
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cancer gets an F- (F minus)

I emailed a friend to voice my frustration or disbelief, I’m not sure what it was, about having cancer twice, making it through chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries relatively smoothly.  I mean, yes, I had pain, anxiety, swelling, a punctured lung and hated all of it but for the most part things went as planned.  So when I had surgery on July 17thand was in the hospital for 2 nights, admitted for 3 nights for IV antibiotics due to an infection a week later and then readmitted for a surgery to completely cut out the infection I said, “Can you believe it?  After all this I can’t heal from a surgery?”  That’s when Cate told me “Cancer gets an F-.” And I had to laugh, boy is she right.

I ended up being in the hospital for 3 nights to get the IV antibiotics.  I went back for my post op visit and the infection hadn’t really improved.  My surgeon said he thought the best plan was to take me back to the operating room to cut out the infection.  On Thursday, July 31st, I went back to surgery and Dr. Sullivan complete cut out the infected area.  I stayed one night and then came home, with another drain and more pain meds.  The drain was removed a week later.  As of today all of my stitches have been removed and I think I’m in the clear.    

Here’s a little recap:
July 17 – surgery to reconstruct my breasts and remove the scar from the lumpectomy I had in October 2013.
July 24 – admitted for 4 days/3 nights of IV antibiotics.
July 31 – back to the O.R. to remove the infection.
August 7 – drain removed
August 18 - some stitches removed
August 25 - remaining stitches removed

Because of the complications I will have at least one more surgery, if not two.  My left breast is now quite a bit smaller and shaped differently from my right breast due to the procedure that cut out the infection.  You might think, well Kristyn nobody has perfect breasts so why not stop?  I’ll tell you why.  First of all, I’ve been through a lot and I think I deserve this.  Second, you might call them million dollar boobs but I’m pretty sure million dollar boobs are perfect!  I know there are other reasons and I also know I don’t need to explain myself so I’ll stop with this - all of these surgeries I’m having are because I was told, in Sept 2012 and Sept 2013, that I have Breast Cancer.

Sept 2014 is right around the corner so please say a prayer or make a wish for me that the cancer really is gone.  I have an appointment with my Oncologist on Sept 4th.  I’m hoping she is ready for me to get my port-a-cath out.  Not that I’m bothered by having it in, it’s just that it’d be pretty significant to take it out.  No port means no more chemo.


This is my arm at one point during my hospital stays.  When I was admitted for IV antibiotics they used my port to give me the antibiotics but they had to draw blood from my arm.  My blood is hard to find!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Driving to the beach?

Surgery last week went well.  I ended up staying 2 nights, kind of by force on my part because I wanted an extra night in the hospital to be taken care of and to make sure I was ready.  I'm not sure it was 100% necessary but I'm glad I stayed because I felt 100% better the 2nd day.  I left the hospital with 2 drains, one from each breast, a prescription for pain pills and one for an antibiotic (which is standard) and felt pretty good.  I did nothing Saturday and Sunday except rest.  Monday I had one appointment to get my port flushed and went back home to rest.

Tuesday I went in for my post op visit because I wanted to get my drains removed.  Laura, the Physicians Assistant, removed my right drain but said my left breast was infected and needed to leave the left drain in until the infection was gone.  She prescribed a stronger antibiotic and said to check in Wednesday to see what the progress was.  I called in Wednesday morning and then sent her a picture of my breast.  I know it's ok to send pics of your breast to the Breast Center but I did feel kind of weird doing it!  She said it looked like my breast had improved but she wanted me to check in Thursday.  Well, at 5:06pm, Wednesday (you know, 6 minutes after they closed) I started to get nervous that my breast was worse than it was in the morning.  I sent pics (again, feeling weird) to my friend Jolie, who has recently started working at the St Charles Surgical Center, and she said I should call the Breast Center and see what they thought I should do.  Again, I sent pictures, this time to a man but still a doctor.  I felt even weirder!  He called me back, said he thought it was a skin infection and could wait til Thursday but that I'd need to be seen and probably admitted.

Thursday morning I received a call to come in at 10 and bring clothes for a 2-3 day hospital stay.  Luckily I was admitted to the St Charles Surgical Center where I had my surgery.  I was kind of worried I'd be admitted to the regular hospital, which would've been fine but I was very happy I wasn't.  So far I've been in for about 24 hours.  I've had several rounds of antibiotics and 2 rounds of steroids.  My infection is getting better but I'll be here another day, at least.  I feel fine, except for my breast.  I haven't had any other symptoms so we caught the infection early enough and I'll find out tomorrow morning if I'll be leaving or staying another day.

We are so thankful that my mom is here to help with everything.  What a relief!  Bobby went back to the fire house on Thursday, after his vacation, so it was great to not have to scramble to make plans for Micah and our dogs.  We are blessed in so many ways.  I watched a movie last night that almost made me cry and I'm pretty sure I have never cried at a movie.  The only reason the tears didn't fall last night was because I knew the nurses were coming in soon.  It was kind of a fluke that I watched the movie, my friend (who will remain nameless!) brought me some dvds including The Family Stone.  It's actually a good movie and I'm not mad she brought it but one of the characters ends up dying of Breast Cancer (HELLO I kind of relate to that!).  The tears wouldn't have been because she died of Breast Cancer.  The tears would've come because this movie made me realize/remember that I am so lucky, blessed and thankful that I have made it trough cancer, twice.  I am alive to see my son grow.  I am seeing Helena grow up.  I celebrated another birthday.  Bobby and I will celebrate another anniversary.    And I have so many more things to look forward to that I don't even know about!  

Getting ready to head home from the hospital on Saturday. 

I thought it'd be fun to get 'Bobby' but 'Buddy' is good.  Micah is My Buddy and I'd love to share a coke with him.  My mom brings him to visit but it's not the same as him waking me up and then spending mornings and evenings with him.
So, my mom sends me pictures. Last night Micah got in his truck with his hat on and his alligator and was driving to the beach.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summertime!


After a few painful months dealing with Lymphedema swelling in my left arm and breast, actually the entire left side of my body, the swelling is under control. I saw a Lymphedema therapist weekly for about 12 weeks. After my last appointment I hugged her and I'm not really a big hugger (except with Micah!). Mary and I talked about everything while she worked her magic with lymphatic drainage massage.

Tomorrow is my Stage 2 - With a Twist reconstruction surgery. I had my first surgery last February, the double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. And another surgery in May to make everything symmetrical. Normally this would be it for reconstruction surgeries but, lucky me, I had a recurrence and then a lumpectomy to remove the second tumor. The lumpectomy left a scar 3-4 inches long on my left breast. I also have skin discoloration on my breast from radiation. Some might ask if I can deal with the scar and skin discoloration and I absolutely can. BUT! I don't have to! Women (and men) who have breast cancer are finding that they have options after treatment and don't have to be disfigured just because they had cancer. Some women have a double mastectomy and are left with scars on a flat chest where they used to have breasts. Some women have to have their nipples removed, can you imagine? But my hospital has this tattoo artist named Vinnie who flies in to do 3D nipple tattoos. My nipples were not removed.  However, they were moved in one of my surgeries and will probably be moved again. This is CRAZY stuff! It's also crazy to think that I have boobs but they aren't really boobs. So I don't think about it much:) I would show my scars, my "boobs" and my fake belly button to anyone because I think it's fascinating. But I'm not going to lift my shirt in public or without you asking so if you're interested just let me know. No pics on here either because this is not an x-rated blog!


Anyway... Pre-op today and surgery tomorrow. I'm not sure what exactly is being done but I'll find out today. I also don't know my expected recovery time or any risks associated with the surgery, not necessarily medical risks but the need for additional surgeries. I still have my port which requires monthly flushing by a nurse at the cancer center and will require surgery to remove. At this point I do not have an expected return to work date and I'm trying not to plan because I have no idea what is going to happen!

On a non-cancer related note, Bobby, Helena, Micah and I went on vacation last week to Vero Beach, Florida. My good friend Erin invited us to join her family at the Driftwood Inn for their Week 27 vacation. We had a great time! Erin's family has timeshares at the Driftwood Inn during Week 27 and has been going for years (I think like 35 years!). How nice to be included and treated like family when we arrived! We drove 11.5 hours across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to the East Coast/Atlantic Ocean and arrived on Saturday. To save money we stayed with Erin in her room for the first 2 nights and then moved to our humongous 1 bedroom/2 bath/full kitchen/balcony/closet-that-could've-been-Micah's-room room. All of us in Erin's room was a little cramped and I'm positive Erin was ready for her space back :) We spent 7 nights on the beach, in the pools, walking all over the resort (which luckily isn't that big), up stairs, down stairs and hanging out with a very welcoming and fun family.


chillin on the way to Vero Beach
Helena providing entertainment on the drive





Micah's Spider Man kite up in the sky
I think she was practicing



















Bobby, Micah and Helena kayaking with some of our new friends/family.
For those of you who know me well, you know I don't like to put forth much energy on vacation. Luckily Bobby knows me well and didn't even ask if I wanted to go kayaking.
Huge fan of the pool!





not a huge fan of the sand
The Atlantic Ocean
 
East Coast sand

We spent quite a bit of time in these chairs.
 



Heading home

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's been awhile


I’ve started and even finished some entries but never actually saved them and I really don’t know why but here it is.  I’m going to start, finish, save and send today. 
 
I am done with chemo.  I’ve been done for awhile, honestly I don’t remember my last chemo date but even on my last day we didn’t know it was my last day which is a little upsetting.  I didn’t get the end-of-chemo celebration L and I wanted it!  I think I’ve said this before but this time around things seemed to be treated as more of a routine type thing and it was far from routine.  No one should have to go through cancer once let alone twice.  The chemo treatment itself was easier on me but I still HAD chemo AND radiation AND 2 surgeries so far, 2 biopsies AND a gazillion doctor appointments.  Anyway, I’m done with chemo and I suppose that’s the important thing. 
 
The swelling I had in my arm and breast has gone down a lot.  I can wear my wedding rings and watch and I’m not in constant pain.  The therapy helps and I continue to go once a week right now.  I also started wearing a ‘normal’ bra last weekend.  Yippee right?  For those of you who have to wear one every day you’d think I’d be happy to not wear one but I kind of need one.  Kind of, and kind of not since I had my reconstruction surgery last year.  Anyway, wearing a bra is one step closer to getting back to ‘normal.’  Obviously I use the term normal lightly and it will never mean the same thing it used to.

I have an upcoming surgery that is scheduled for July 17th.  I hesitated about the date and would like to go a little later but the next opening is August 15th and I’m not sure I want to wait that long.  This surgery is the one I was supposed to have last November but got postponed because of my recurrence.  It’s another reconstruction surgery with Dr Sullivan at the fancy hospital.  Dr Sullivan said it’s Stage 2 with a twist.  Part of the surgery will be removing the lumpectomy scar which I think is pretty cool!

I still have my port in and I’m not sure when I’ll get it out.  My Oncologist said to leave it in for awhile.  Sweet, does that mean I might do more chemo? Does she expect another recurrence?  Ugh, I try not to figure some things out.

I have friends; friends’ husbands, wives or parents and kids; people I don’t know but find out about who are dealing with cancer and I feel so bad.  I pray for you and them.  I can’t imagine a child with cancer.  I can’t imagine Bobby dealing with this or Micah or Helena or my mom or anyone!  Please be diligent and get things checked if you think something is off.  Don’t worry if it’s nothing, wouldn’t that be better than if it were something?! 

Tomorrow is my 39th birthday.  Holy cow!  39!  I made it!  And I plan to make many more so consider yourself warned that I will continue to remind you. 
 
I guess I haven't taken many pictures lately so here it is, make fun all you want!
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm taking a break!

I had an appointment with Dr Barnhill yesterday to see if I’d be doing another chemo and she said she’s still thinking I’m done but…  I also got an MRI yesterday because of pain I’ve been having, probably associated with the swelling in my arm and breast.  When I go back to Dr Barnhill in 2 weeks we’ll know for sure if I’m done with chemo. For now, I’m taking a break from Chemo.

I requested something, anything, to be done a few weeks ago when I was having serious pain from the swelling and lymphedema.  Dr Barnhill ordered an MRI but for whatever reason it was never scheduled so yesterday the nurse made sure to get it scheduled.  The MRI was scheduled for 5:30pm last night at a different hospital.  No big deal – I’ve been to this hospital before for other people and I’m not afraid of hospitals.  However, the experience could have been better.  The people were nice, the facility is fine but my arm was beat up!  They needed to find a vein for the contrast IV.   Person One could not see a vein but tried to get one, unsuccessfully.  Person Two could not see a vein but tried to get one, unsuccessfully.  Person Three was from the IV team and found one with no problem.  She’s had 30 years of experience with IV’s.  But during the MRI (which was very uncomfortable) I started to feel a cold sensation in my arm and just figured it was the dye going into my arm.  If you’ve had any type of contrast MRI or CT scan you know the feeling, although it’s usually warm.  When the MRI was done I looked at my arm and the contrast dye was dripping from my arm along with blood.  Oops I guess Person Three didn’t do as good as we thought.  Luckily, apparently, the dye is not harmful and I don’t have any bruising from any of the needle sticks.  But I’m ok and we’ll get the results soon.

I think I’ve determined the pain I was having in my arm, chest, ribs and abdomen is from lymphedema in my breast, not my arm.  Ok, maybe both my breast and arm and maybe my new therapist determined it but whatever!  I think we’ve found some treatment that will work.  When I took 3 pain pills within 4 hours (don’t scold me!!) that did NOTHING for the pain my mom suggested maybe I was taking the wrong medication.  So I tried an extra strength Ibuprofen and almost immediately felt relief.  My new therapist, Mary, also did a lymphatic drainage massage (very, very light massage to get the lymphatic fluid moving) which seemed to help.  I have 5 appointments with Mary in the next few weeks and I’m about to call her and ask her to call me if she has cancellations.  Her office is 3-4 blocks away and I can be there in 5 minutes and I think her therapy is helping.

Last Thursday was the fundraiser at Bayou Beer Garden.  People from work came (thanks for coming, it was great to see you all!), the United Fire Fighters Association made dirty rice; a retired chief from the Jefferson Parish Fire Department made hot dogs, chili and gumbo; my friend Meghan made red beans and rice; Bobby made potato salad; and my mom made her version of Swedish bread.  There were lots of raffle and silent auction items, grab bags and door prizes.  And I think we all had a good time.  I hate that these fundraisers are for me although I’m glad they’re not for any of you because that’d mean you were sick and I don’t want that either!  I am forever grateful to all of my friends and family who have supported me in any way through this time in my life.  And although this may sound morbid (and selfish?) it’s wonderful to see how loved I am BEFORE my funeral, which I think/hope is a long ways away.  I’ll try not to get a big head :)
  
I’m including some pictures of jazz fest, which I did get to go to but it was soooo different from other years - I missed a few days, I left early one day and went later than normal other days, used SPF 45 instead of SPF 15, wore wide brimmed hats and I took it much easier than in the past.  Two friends visited for jazz fest and I spent as much time as I could with them but I didn’t go out with them because I just couldn’t do it :(  My friend Erin came to spend time with me and help out with the fundraiser.  We had a great time but again, it was much different from other visits.  No matter what we did the day before I rested the next day.  And the plans we made rarely happened because I was just too tired.  When I’m out and about I try really hard to ‘Be There’ but when I’m home I’m taking it easy.   


While I might be done with Chemo I’m not going back to work yet.  I need to get my lymphedema under control and I have a few more surgeries. I also need to get my stamina back.  It’s hard for me to wait but I need to be healthy!

Nikki and Angie going to Jazz Fest without me :(

Helena passing time by making something in the sand for Robin Thicke

Wide brim hat - fancy!
Possibly//hopefully my last day of chemo.  With Missy, my favorite chemo nurse.
Ahh, the love. It's so cute!

Working at his computer, headphones and all.

Micah and his buddy Portland

Fanning ourselves with my Mother's Day Fan made by Micah