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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What a difference a day or two makes.  I decided to not put my sleeve on yesterday because it made the swelling and pain worse on Monday.  Today I can actually see my knuckles.  I still have pain but I'm starting to wonder if it's due to radiation side effects still occurring, chemo side effects and the white blood cell shot I got on Friday.  I'm wondering and hoping because lymphedema is a dreaded illness.  I won't say I'm off the hook though, I had swelling a month ago and it went down then the swelling came back.  And lymphedema is a risk I'll have for the rest of my life because I had lymph nodes removed.  Monday was definitely a bad day for me and I thank everyone for your prayers and concern.  

I have a check up with my Radiation Oncologist today and I’m going to badger him with questions about radiation side effects and how long they’re going to last.  I’ve been having pain in my left breast since I had my biopsy in February, which is probably normal because of all the treatment I’ve had but I want to make sure it’s normal and not something that needs to be addressed.  Unfortunately I’ve heard the side effects can last years.
  
I haven’t really provided updates on my chemo treatments in a few weeks.  My blood counts were good for my Day 1 treatment on April 3rd.  For my Day 8 treatment my counts were low, really really low but Dr Barnhill decided to give me a dose dense treatment (I’m assuming dose dense means less of the drugs) and then Friday I went for the dreaded white blood cell shot.  I’ll see Dr Barnhill again on April 24th for Day 1 treatment again, as long as my counts are ok again.  I’m going to ask about her plan for future treatments since that will be the beginning of my 4th cycle.


Lastly, it is hard for me to ask for help because everyone has been so helpful already and it is all appreciated.  If you haven’t seen or heard, my friends, family, United Fire Fighters Association and the Bayou Beer Garden are holding another fundraiser for me.  There’s a suggested donation amount of $15 – if you can’t pay that (or don’t want to) I’d still love if you could make it!  I enjoy silent auctions and the chance to bid on cool items and I LOVE seeing friends and family.  If you, or someone you know wants to donate an item or if you have questions you can email me and I’ll put you in contact with the right person (ksmoore2211@yahoo.com).  

Despite a swollen, aching hand I am still able to laugh with my friends! 
swollen hand w/sleeve - no knuckles.
This guy makes me happy too!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grrr I'm mad


I haven’t really been too upset about the whole cancer thing, I’ve accepted it and my treatments.  I even accepted losing my hair!  Cancer seemed to be a short term bump in the road that I would deal with and move on.  Even when I was given my second diagnosis I accepted it, started treatment and was looking forward to the end of treatment when I could start life over again.  But I’ve got this problem now and I’m not ok with it. 

My left hand is swollen, hurts and honestly looks ugly!  It’s probably lymphedema which is a risk when you have lymph nodes removed and I had 5 removed last year.  I think we have around 20-30 in our armpits so having 5 removed didn't seem like a big deal to me or the doctors.  It looks like my hand is broken, I want to get an xray to make sure it’s not and I think that’s a common desire.  I read a comment from someone who wished she was having heart problems vs lymphedema.  My watches and bracelets are tight.  I can’t even wear my wedding ring and I really like it! 

The treatment for this is a compression sleeve, physical therapy and exercises I can do at home to help move the lymphatic fluid along but there’s no cure.  I have a sleeve that seems to make the swelling worse, my therapist doesn't think I have too much of a problem (I guess the swelling goes down when I see her) and I’m really upset that I have to deal with this, especially if there’s no cure.  And it really hurts.  It hurts to touch my hand, it hurts to type, it hurts to make a fist, it hurts just sitting here. 


So here it is, my attitude is not positive today.  I am mad and sad and hurting.  If you wondered how I was able to remain positive you can stop wondering because today I'm not. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

How quickly I forget and how quickly I'm reminded


With 3 weeks since my last chemo, I started to forget that I was actually being treated for breast cancer.  The first week I had some nausea, the second week it started to go away and the third week it was gone!   And then came Day 1, last Thursday, and I was reminded that yes, I’m being treated for breast cancer.  I received my normal Day 1 chemo cocktail of pre meds (anti nausea medicine) and the two chemo drugs I get, Carboplatin and Gemcytobin.  The actual treatment (chair time, chemo, infusion, it can be called many things) wasn’t bad.  And I think because it’d been 3 weeks since my last chemo the purple box with the lunch they provide didn’t even bother me.  I even went to Cancer Yoga that evening.  And I woke up feeling ok but as time went on I noticed the queezy feeling in my stomach. 
Sometimes I feel guilty for being active, doing fun things, hanging out with friends, etc… but when I think about the alternative I try to convince myself I don’t need to feel guilty.  I think a lot of people going through chemo spend a lot of time in bed but all that does for me is remind me that my stomach hurts and/or that I don’t feel good.  I do have to pay attention to my energy levels because when there’s no energy, there’s no action.  I try to stay busy, possibly too busy and perhaps I should slow it down a little but there’s no guide on how to act while on chemo so I just listen to my body.   And today has been a little rough.  I asked my mom to pick up Micah and come over for dinner because I wanted her to but it turns out I needed her to also.

I go back this Thursday for labs and my day 8 chemo.  I asked and there’s nothing I can do to help keep my white blood cells in the range that allows me to get chemo.  Nothing I can eat or drink, or not eat or drink will help.  Hiding out won’t help.  Taking EmergenC or extra vitamin C won’t help.  And I won’t know anything until I go in for labs on Wednesday.  Even last time, when my counts were off I didn’t feel any different (500 is the lowest my count can be, I was at 400.  Before I started chemo my count was around 4300.) Dr Barnhill told me to think positively for my white blood cell count to be within the right range so that’s what I’m doing.  Feel free to help out J