Saturday, July 25, 2015

What's happened and what's going on

Oh boy, well, it seems I will be making posts (as long as all is going well) in 7 month increments any more? Haha, sorry about that to any of you actually continuing to follow along! Please understand how deeply thankful I am for your concern for this little ol' Anj. It really does mean the world to me. <3

So, as I alluded to above, things seem to be going fine. Normal even. Well, as normal as normal can be after you have survived cancer.

My recent blood work has all been dandy. No abnormally elevated tumor markers or anything nasty like that, praise the Lord!

However, I can't shake the feeling that something isn't right. I am like, 90% sure it's all in my head, if I assess it from a logical standpoint. But in the times I have too much time on my hands to think, which gratefully are further and fewer apart now, I worry. Endlessly and possibly needlessly, but all the same, the fear is there.

I rarely sleep through the night anymore. Naturally, it would likely be easier to if I didn't have a rambunctious teenager-aged furbaby randomly yelling at me to play with her in the middle of the night... thanks for that, Michonne-kitty! ;)

"...who, me?!"

Yet, even when there is no good reason for me to wake up frequently, I still do. A good night's sleep for me these days is if I only happen to wake up between 1-3 times throughout the night. I suspect this change is thanks to Tamoxifen screwing with my hormones. Again though, that's only a suspicion. It's frustrating but not life destroying.

The constant fatigue though? I was reassured by several of my docs that this would disappear post-chemo a year or two. We're catching up on 2 years since I finished my chemo regimen, so we shall see how true that is.

From other articles and studies I have read, it can more often than not be a lifelong side effect. I have accepted this to be true at this point. This way, if this fatigue magically disappears within the near future, I will be quite pleasantly surprised won't I?

If this fatigue could be rectified with a simple nap, or going to bed earlier, then I would have no means for complaining whatsoever. On the contrary, I would be thrilled! Unfortunately, it's far too easy for me to reach the point of exhaustion that instantly puts you into tears and only slightly improves with an over abundance of rest. Let's put it this way, I can/could sleep solidly for 10+ hours and will have no trouble getting in an hour long nap later the same day.

This one affects me more directly. Often times I don't know how I will muster the energy to get through the work week. And booking two outings in one weekend? That's usually not a great idea for me. I simply don't have the energy. I feel at least twice my age on bad days.

Now, my heart feels guilty any time I gripe about the side effects of what helped to keep me alive. I pray God will have patience with me, and that you all will not think less of me. I only feel the need to explain specifically, so that those I love might better understand if I seem less involved at gatherings, etc. etc.

And once more I must remind myself to circle back to my appreciation for still being alive. Had things gone differently, I might not be. I would not have made it to see 30 if I hadn't found that lump in time. So, fatigued Anj can and will shut up and deal. Haha

Speaking of turning 30? I reached that back in May! Flippin' crazy. Jason took me to Napa Rose to celebrate the occasion, and we had the best meal and experience yet that we've had there! I ate some rare, like, limited edition salmon from the North West somewhere and Jason ate shrimp sausage, lol... among other yummy seafoods. Also tried a port wine for the first time! I have decided that I enjoy wine, but I reeeeaaally enjoy GOOD wine. As in the straight-from-Italy or France kinds!

Our desserts from Napa Rose. <3

Oh, and I know I brought up my intention to cosplay Carol Peletier from the Walking Dead in my last post! I have done it twice now! First time was sort of a bust, but it was more successful my second time around. First time was WonderCon back in April. Second was a few weeks ago at Walker Stalker Fan Fest San Diego. Heck, I even got interviewed by the OC Register because of my costume! Proud nerdgirl moment.

WonderCon 2015 Carol selfie.

And serious business season 5b Carol at WSFF San Diego 2015

Also, because of my adoration for the Walking Dead and specific desire to dress as Carol, I have met a group of awesome new friends! We all cosplay as Carol, and although it is private and by invite only, we have a little "secret" group called Carols United. <3

In fact, my dear pal Connor from our group came up with this fabulous idea for us to all have a shirt! He came up with the original design, and with his blessing, I created some new artwork and recreated his original design, just replacing the stock artwork with my own. I'm pretty proud of the outcome, and the back of our shirts all bare our individual hashtag Carol related nicknames. I'm #SurvivorCarol. :D

an Anj modelling said shirt.

So I have met and hung out a couple of times with Connor, Micha and Amelia (whom I all adore and appreciate greatly!) but everyone in our group is extremely friendly and supportive of one another. Geeks helping geeks. It's a beautiful thing! I hope to meet all of my Carols United friends in person eventually. <3

Me looking silly with the fabulous Amelia ( at WonderCon 2015.
#FatCarol #ManCarol #SurvivorCarol <3 at WSFF San Diego 2015.

Moral of that story? You never know who or what or where life can take you! Haha. That super dorky interest of yours may lead you to meeting some potential lifelong friends!

Getting into Walker Stalker Fan Fest a bit more... now, we had held out hope that the event would lure some of the current Walking Dead cast over to Petco Park for the event. Likely due to contract restrictions, none did. Buuut, we did meet everyone we wanted to! We have a framed map of "Terminus" that lives in our living room that we brought with us and had our favorite former cast members sign. It's seriously bad ass.

Best thing on here? The "Welcome to" above Terminus that Andrew J. West (Gareth) wrote on there. 

I tried to change out of costume before our photo op, so it's not the best picture of me, but ZOMG HERSHEL!!

Sooo, I'm looking forward to dressing as this amazing character again soon! Don't know when just yet, but I'll be ready! But seriously, Carol's angelic hair is impossible to recreate!! That's the one thing I wish I could get down! Haha

Next fangirl goal? Meet the queen herself, Melissa McBride (the actress who plays Carol). I just want to hug her and thank her for putting her soul into such an inspirational and strong female character. I truly do identify with her. While I may not have had the same trials as her character, I have had to make tough choices just so I could keep on surviving.

You know something blog? I actually have an interesting story for you all in regards to my Walking Dead fandom. For those of you who are disinterested or unfamiliar with the show, it's totally cool if you skip past all this! It won't hurt my feelings. Haha


Sorry Carol, I'm "these people" then. lol! Anyhow, season 1 of the Walking Dead premiered on Halloween 2010. Jason watched it live from day one. He followed along faithfully for the entire 6 episode first season run. I, on the other hand, have never before been a fan of gore in television or movies, and I have certainly never been a fan of the horror genre. However, my husband is. He loves horror stuff and especially zombie related stuff. So, while he had no familiarity with the Walking Dead comic prior to the tv show's debut, he was initially interested because of the whole zombie apocalypse aspect.

While he watched the show, I would often hear dialogue in the background. A few times it would catch my attention. One unusually touching moment for entertainment considered "horror" that convinced me it was more than just some zombie show, was from the pilot itself. The lead character Rick Grimes sees a woman who is now a sad shell of her former self and has turned long ago crawling towards him. He meets her eyes and says, "I'm sorry this happened to you", before he puts her down. I knew right there that it was a much different animal than I thought it was. 

Slowly as Jason rewatched the first season, I'd watch more here and there. When season 2 debuted, I was hooked and have been ever since. Now, my reason behind bringing this all up, is that it aligns with my cancer diagnosis and journey in some odd ways. 

I was recollecting with Jason recently about a particular moment that happened in the show, and how I realized we were in the apartment we're living in when it happened. I recalled my reaction in that moment, etc. Then it occurred to me. The season ended earlier than it normally would that year (in 2012) as it had several episodes fewer than it does anymore. The season finale for season 2 aired just two days before I received my diagnosis. Season 3 began just 4 days after my bilateral mastectomy and just 1 day after I was released from the hospital for it. 

Okay, I know... I'm being a dork seeing all these things aligning. And I totally am, but I think something about it ties it into my journey a little more personally. These characters are all doing their best to survive the most awful circumstances. They have everything and anything thrown at them. So you see them through all of their ups and downs. I think in some weird way, it has helped empower me and distract me from my own trials and issues. 

So I am indeed an uber fan... but I like to think there's some good reasoning behind it!

One final thing related to my fandom, yet unrelated - I'm still hoping to get my first tattoo this year. Maybe even two? My first will be my pink ribbon I've been wanting for the past 2 years, and now as a separate tattoo, I want to get my favorite quote of Carol's from the show along with a flower that represents her character. When though? Hmmm, sooner than later I hope! 

Other than all my fangirl business, I've just been trying to get through the work week like everyone else. I was doing really well with going to the gym with Jason for quite a few months there. Now it's more inconsistent on my part, as Jason was asked to change to an earlier work shift which makes for us needing to get to the gym even earlier.

I just have such a hard time getting up to get to the gym at 3:30am versus the 4am we were doing. I don't have to be to work until 8am (and I'm off at 5pm), so I'll try to rest for a bit before getting ready and out the door to work, but with my chronic fatigue, it just makes for an extremely long day for me. I'm trying though, and I shall continue to. That's better than nothing after all!

My next oncology appointment is in September, so we'll see if he decides to order my next scan or decides to wait longer. I always get antsy as my time for a scan approaches. I'll be sure to post an update either way after I see him. 

Weeell, and that's all I got for now folks! Thanks as always for taking the time to read my ramblings. God bless you all with a wonderful rest of your weekend. 

"But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. " Psalm 86:15

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I have a will for survival

Happy 2015 blog! Has it really been 7 months since I last updated?! Oh how time flies!

Let's see... there hasn't especially been a whole lot to fill everyone in on up until much more recently. That's probably why I've been so quiet leading up to this point. My biggest news concerning my health is that I had my most recent check up with my oncologist back in November, and he then had me go for my yearly PET/CT scan.

Major bruising from vein infiltration from the IV... ahh, fun times!

I went for my scan, and well, good news first -- there was no sign of metastatic disease!

The less good news -- they found an ovarian cyst about 3.4cm on my left side.

He put in an authorization for me to have an ultrasound done to rule out it being cancerous. I went and had that exam in December. When I heard back from my doctor, I didn't really get a solid answer one way or another. I didn't get an "oh, it's a typical, benign looking cyst" or "it's suspicious, we need to check it out immediately".

The radiologist who read my images just thought I should have the exam repeated in 4-6 weeks to see what's going on. One thing positive is that on the PET it showed as being 3.4cm, and my ultrasound showed it being 2.9cm. It had shrunk a bit.

However, it was not a simple cyst. Instead, the docs were thinking more likely a complex hemorrhagic cyst. Fancy-talk for a blood filled cyst. Gross, I know.

So upon their recommendation for me to have the repeat done in 4-6 weeks, which I did the first week of January. The results from that were that the cyst on my left ovary had resolved! Woohoo! BUT, I now have a small cyst on my right ovary. Argh.

With the left ovarian cyst, I had been quietly having pain on the left side of my pelvis for a few months, actually. I didn't even think much about it. Figured it was weird period-related junk. I mean, women are freaking complicated, what with all our crazy reproductive organs and what not! lol

And as a matter of fact, I think the way that cyst "resolved" was by rupturing. Several weekends ago, I had some intense pain and breakthough bleeding. Ended in a couple days, but I was nervous about it. 

So now, I'll hope and pray this new cyst is no big deal and resolves on its own as well. Just have to wait and trust our Lord once again. :3

So in non-health related Anj-news, since I have settled nicely into my lovely little office job, I made the plunge into being an owner of vivid, colorful hair. I had been wanting to do dye it violet/purple for years and there's nothing like facing your mortality to make you realize, "why the heck not??".

Yours truly during the nearly 6 month duration of my violet-hair.

Of course, it may seem silly for a lady in her late twenties to do such a thing, but you know something? I don't care! I've always wanted crazy hair and most recently I had wanted beautiful purple hair, so why not? I totally know I have a problem with repeating myself, but cancer changes your world. It changed mine for the better in most ways. Things I would be too timid or frightened to do before, I say to hell with it and do it anyway! 

I mean, God's got this anyway. My life was never fully in MY control to begin with, so why not live as happily as I can while I have life left to live? You learn so many things along the way when you have this outlook. 

Now, does this mean I would be willing to duck into a just any back alley, weirdo ethnic restaurant and eat the strangest item on the menu? Pfft, noway, I'm not THAT adventurous. However, I would be willing to do it if I thought it might make me happy. :) 

One of the other lessons I have learned is that the more I don't give an eff what random other people think of me (and focus only on my happiness and my love ones' opinions are) the sweeter life is.

So as 2015 came up to greet us, I decided to change my hair again for this brand new year. I now have a two-tone kinda thing going on. I was going for white in my bangs, black the rest... it didn't quite turn out as anticipated because my hair is a stubborn jerk. But, it still turned out pretty awesome if I do say so.

So, it is an ongoing battle to make myself feel beautiful after losing what is considered such a vital component of a woman's beauty, so I'll do what I can to convince myself of my beauty. I will say though, that my chest is looking the best it has since it has post mastectomy. If and when I am ever able to scrounge up the funds to get a tattoo either covering my scars or at least near it, then I think I can be pretty content with it all.

I had been saving a Victoria's Secret gift card that was a gift from my parents for my birthday in 2012. They got it for me with the intention that I could purchase some brand new brassieres once I got my new foobies. A marvelous idea, really!

The problem is, I can't wear normal bras any more. I tried a few times... and they ride up or don't fit right in the front. My right side (which is my Barbie boob side), does not properly fill out a cup the way a normal breast does. That extra bit of skin makes all the difference, apparently.

So I have yet to go to a Nordstrom and get fitted by a specialist. I hear tell they even sell mastectomy bras! I do need to get my paws on some of those as I'm awfully tired of wearing my pseudo sports bras. Yeah they're comfy and stuff, but I want to feel like regular a lady, dang it!

As far as getting back in shape, Jason's new job has a fabulous discount on gym memberships so we went last Friday to get signed up. We were going to begin working out this past Monday, but I woke up with a pretty severe sinus infection. -_- If it's not one thing, it's another sometimes!

Ahhh well. I actually have a complementary personal trainer session that I've got scheduled for this Sunday morning. It was recommended to me so as to start out on the right path to recovering and improving my upper body strength, etc. So we'll see what she says, but I'm looking forward to it. 

I needs to get in shape because I am 100% going to be cosplaying as one of my favorite Walking Dead characters, Carol Peletier, to one or two conventions this year. ;) Yep, I'm that geeky that that's what motivates me. Haha! Hey, whatever works!

Besides, for anyone who may not watch TWD, she is a freaking amazing character. She has transformed the most over the seasons. She's a kick ass survivor, which I like to think is somewhat fitting. 

Oh! Another thing I don't want to forget mentioning before I wrap this post up; we made it to our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure San Diego for the third year in a row. ^_^ Quite happy to have been able to be there! It's always such a fun and uplifting experience. I know I look forward to it each year. It's turned into such a fun annual family tradition.

Team Pwn Cancer 2014! My parents also came by to cheer us on and enjoy lunch altogether afterwards. <3 I already can't wait for the 2015 race!

That's all for now, m'blog! But, here's to a wonderful and blessed year ahead for us all! :)

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid of terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Leave a light on

It's been a wee bit over a week since I had my second breast reconstruction surgery. Sort of really hoping and praying it's my last too. Time will tell, but at this point, the results are night and day from what I was rockin' on my right side prior. 

Pre-surgery: IV in, thumbs up.

Surgery was relatively easy. When I came to after,  I had pain and was given a Vicodin. I was able to stuff some crackers in my face immediately. The pain didn't come on until the following day and day after though. Overall, I would say the pain after was more punishing than my first breast reconstruction surgery.

As it turned out, I didn't require a drain after! Lots of surprises for Dr. Doezie when he got in there to do my capsulectomy, in truth. My implant had a 3/4 inch tear in it. Thank God it was cohesive gel! It was also twisted. Partially beneath the muscle, and the rest on top of the muscle. O_O How the even? haha So bizarre.

So he swapped out the implant with a fresh one, and instead of removing all the scar tissue completely, he removed some and created some scoring throughout it so it'd have room to expand for the implant. All this took an extra hour than planned too.

It looks awesome so far. I finally have some breast softness on that side, and the slope matches well with my left side. I'm super pleased with the results, aesthetically speaking. The down side? Tricky to know if I'm doomed to feel tightness on that side of my chest for eternity or not. I know my body is still healing, but just... guh. >:( 


At what point do you just sort of wish you could not need to worry about this hot mess? 

We all take for granted what we have until we don't have it any longer. Or if we're even blessed enough to have it in the first place. 

Like it would be a tremendous loss for anybody who has had eyesight all their life to suddenly become blind. Point being, I miss having my normal, flawed chest in tact. It tried to murder me and all, but it was comfortable and natural and mine. 

Most days my decision and what I've been through don't weigh on me. Nobody would even know  what I've experienced if I wasn't such an open book. Perhaps I even hang onto it too much at times. But you don't go through this shit and not allow it to mold you on some level.

I do my best not to bring up all the negative thoughts I have near daily. I shove it deep down and smile when that's the last thing I'd like to do. It's the fear of the disease returning. It's the pain I feel when I hear of any person going through it. The way your altered view of life makes you look at others and their priorities differently.

I'll see some cancer survivors talk about moving on with their lives. Trying to forget it ever happened. I deeply admire and respect them if they're able to accomplish that. I can and have moved on for the most part, but so much is still so different. 

The days I do forget, those are my better ones without a doubt. 

But... I'm alive. I'm all scarred and stitched up and broken; however, I'm still here. That's something I must perpetually tell myself.

So please Lord, forgive me once again. I stumble and some times it takes me longer to get back up and regain my stride. I will regain it though, specifically with and by your loving aide.

And lest we not forget, everything happens for a reason. Everything. As much as I despise that fact at times, it is the truth. :)

For all I know, maybe this will all heal perfectly and be fantastic. All I know now is that I'm still uncomfortable and in pain. Better option any day than not being here to complain about it though. 

God sees it fit for me to exist here still, so I shall exist and try to exist the best I know how. Showing kindness to others above all else. The world can never have too much kindness. And while being positive isn't always my strongest suit, I try to bring that to those around me as well as often as possible. It's the best I can do. 

No reason for me to be harsh on myself for any feeling I feel.

That said, I want to acknowledge my wonderful husband and parents. Mom and Dad were there again for this surgery. My Mom had even made me some healthy and fibrous soupy type stuff to eat post surgery. :) So so sweet. 

Jason took this one of my adorable parents as they all waited for me.

And Jason patiently, sweetly took great care of me afterwards. I love that fella kind of a lot. The evening after surgery, he had to literally feed me because I couldn't raise my right arm without extreme pain. He helped bathe me and cooked and cleaned and bathed me. Demeaning as it feels to require dependency on another person, I'm grateful to God that my husband is and has been amazing and willing enough to help me. 

Oh, he was my chauffeur too! Surgery was on Friday, June 13th, and I returned to work the following Wednesday. I wasn't allowed to drive, so he would drive and drop me off before going to work, etc. etc. It was pretty fun to carpool, admittedly. :) 

Anyway, thank you Beeyah for blowing my mind with your love and care. I am blessed to call you mine. <3 And Mom and Dad, thank you for everything as always! God is good to me by surrounding me with people who love me, and I love, so very much.

Lastly, our precious kitty Michonne, was also in on assisting me in my healing. The morning after, she crawled up on my lap and didn't move. She cuddled with me nonstop for those days I was hurting the most. Sweet girl.

My cuddlebutt kitty passed out on me as I recover. <3

That does it for now, everyone! Wishing you all a most grand week! Go appreciate and spend some time with the beings you love.

Until next time, God bless you all and take care. 

"The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." John 1:5

Saturday, June 7, 2014

I believe in hope; I believe if I let go, I'll float

Soooo, kind of a lot has occurred since my last post! And I am most pleased and blessed to report that nearly all of the happenings are good ones! 

First things first, I saw my new PCP and she was fantastic. She put in the referral for me to see Dr. Doezie, the plastic surgeon I had been desperately trying to find a way to see. Well, the referral was approved!! I had no idea if it would go through or not as he's covered by our insurance, but just outside of our HMO group's coverage. So having that first major hurdle accomplished, I was able to schedule my consultation. 

My appointment with him was the day before my 29th (ugh) birthday, and what an unbelievable bday present I got! He told me that he believes he can fix my right breast without needing to do any flap surgery. Praise the Lord, like, for serious!

He's planning to do a capsulectomy, which is fancy-talk for cutting the scar tissue away that has encapsulated my right breast implant. Then he will likely swap it with a new implant. This time I will have a single drain. Bummed about the drain, but one sure sounds a lot better than the five I had to drag around after my mastectomy... ;)

In case it seems as though I'm talking about this as if it's coming up soon, that's because it is! My surgery is this next Friday!! I can dig it. Little to no time for me to dwell on it. The longer a surgery date floats around, the more you have time to think and worry. Which is no bueno says this Anj!

Instead, I shall get it done with and pray it is smooth and successful. 

Okay, so that's the big, most relevant news! Some other big stuff for me has gone down since April as well though.

I am no longer working for Starbucks. It took some huge changes to finally give me the push I needed to leave that job behind. It wasn't really the job itself that kept me at it. It was the regular customers I connected with, and of course the friendships I had formed with co-workers. I am extremely loyal and I felt it wrong to abandon these people.

However, it was ever so slowly poisoning my life. I was exhausted, bitter, and most of all, unhappy. I started applying for jobs where I wouldn't be expected to be on my feet my entire shift. I was also looking for a decent company to join that I could grow with. Maybe settle into a career at, etc.

Before I put in my resignation at Sbux, I had interviewed and been hired by a company in Irvine. It was described to me that my duty would be calling and setting up appointments for salespeople with businesses who were interested in the services the company sold. 

Sounded easy enough! Plus the sweet promise of full time hours, Monday through Friday work schedule, and bonus opportunities? That was all more than I needed to hear to lure me away. I was asked to start immediately. 

First week was all training. We weren't even on the phones until midday Thursday of that first week. The longer I was there in training, the more I realized I had been suckered into being hired for a telemarketing job. :( 

I survived that Thursday on the phones, and made it to lunch on that Friday before realizing I would be even more unhappy than I had been working at Sbux recently. So I politely waited until the lunch hour was over... packed up my things, thanked the trainers for the opportunity but apologized telling them the job was not a good fit. Like, really. Worst. Fit. Ever. 

I felt reckless. I left the job I knew for this "promising" new one, and it was all a mirage. I had even unintentionally burnt some bridges with my resignation from Starbucks because I wasn't able to put in my two weeks. All again, for this other job. And now I had left that job. 

I was unemployed and if I didn't get something, and get something relatively fast, I didn't know what Jason and I would do. We wouldn't be able to afford rent or our bills. All this running around my head, and I felt an eerie calm. Peaceful and relieved by it all.

As it turned out, God had it all under control. I trusted Him that I was doing the right thing. I trusted Him that He would lead me to what I was meant to be doing. 

I was unemployed for maybe a grand total of 5 days? A dear mutual friend of Jason and mine named Lindsay has a caring mother named Jayne, of whom I have only had the pleasure of meeting once before in person. She had read our pleas for anybody with any jobs leads in our area and had supplied me with a great lead!

We knew it could be a long shot because a lot of people were applying for it, and my interview was sort of last minute. But I figured I'd go in there and just be my Anj-ish self. And it went well, but I again never expected anything. 

Well, the day after my interview, I went about my business. I made it to church and was lazing about at home afterwards, but I felt really positive about everything. I felt that I needn't worry. I could put forth effort and see what would happen, but it was vital for me to simply trust. 

I texted Jason telling him just that. He mentioned feeling the same. So I decided I would get on my computer to check for new job listings. About 5 minutes after that, I got a call being offered the job I interviewed for! Nearly cried. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. 

And I started the following day. :) I'm working as a receptionist/administrative assistant for a wonderful little company called Absolute Health Care. The owners, Vicki and Ron, are amazingly kind and generous people... and the other girl in the office, Katherine, is super cool and fun to talk to. She's the one who shared the lead on Facebook that Jayne honed in on for me, by the way! 

Needless to say, I adore my new job. ^_^ AND if you or anyone else reading this knows of anybody needing caregiver services provided by a compassionate company in the Orange County area of California, look us up! 

Oh, and I know I mentioned it briefly, but I also lived to celebrate another birthday! While I could whine about how turning 29 sucks lemons, I shan't. You know why? I'm alive! And I'm dang proud to be alive three years after receiving a cancer diagnosis. 

In summary, life is good and I am blessed beyond words.

I pray that all of you share in feeling the same. :) Hopefully, be typing to you all again real soon with a more normal/improved right booby! Haha! 

Until then, God bless you all!

"But I trusted in you, O LORD: I said, You are my God." Pslam 31:14

Saturday, April 12, 2014

We only get one shot at this

Hoohoo blog!

Much has gone on and much has changed since last I wrote... yet so much is still the same as well! 

My 2 year cancerversary came and went without much notice. Truthfully, I think I went to work as it were any other day. I didn't even realize it had been two years since my diagnosis until a few days later. Haha! I would like to think that's better than obsessing on it, but I should like to mark it a bit better from here out. I want to always appreciate each year -- each month -- each week -- each day -- each hour -- each minute -- each moment, that passes... 

 I know I'm something of a broken record on specific subjects, but they are SO precious. Not everyone is guaranteed tomorrow. A bit over two years ago, that fact became abundantly clear to me. Thus, I will be a better survivor (should I be blessed enough to celebrate my third cancerversary) and make a celebration out of it again next year. :)

Soooo, besides having an obliviously peaceful cancerversary, I did get through all my tests performed by my cardiologist. And you know what we discovered? Not a lot. We determined I'm extremely physically deconditioned. Say what?? I'm crazy out of shape. Go figure.

Had to wear this heart monitor for 48 hours straight. It got super itchy!

Happy to find out my ol' ticker isn't damaged from the cancer treatment, but really? All that to be told I'm out of shape? Lol! I could have saved us a lot of time and money!! Ah well. It stinks because I was in pretty decent shape before the shit hit the fan. ;) My cardiologist was at least nice about not making me feel guilty about it though. He explained that I have good reason for it happening since I had no choice but to take it easy and rest for the better part of the past year plus.

There is an unlikely chance that I might have developed late symptoms of radiation damage to my heart, as it can't always be detected on echocardiograms, but he says I have no other symptoms besides the rapid heart rate. Phew!

Personally, I'd rather not have trouble with my heart. I sort of need it, like, for living and stuff! ^_^

And guess who happens to be portacath-less now?!

Yep, it is no more! I'm still trying to get used to being without it. You don't appreciate normal until normal isn't an option anymore. Having that odd little plastic device living under my skin just beneath my collarbone was normal for a good long while.

So I was given the choice to have it done in the surgery center and be put under for it, or my surgeon could give me local anesthetic and remove it in the back room. I chose the latter of course, you know, because I'm Batman a bad ass. 

I learned that anesthetic really burns once it is injected. I also learned that there is absolutely nothing natural about hearing tearing and slicing sounds that you know are coming from your own body. Only a little unsettling... hahaha! My entire body was so tense I was shaking, sooo I was pretty excited when it was all done. Still took about 45 minutes, but at least Jason could be in the room with me. <3

And he got a picture of my port being held up like a trophy-fish after it had vacated my body!

Gross, I know -- sorry!

I recall being so against having the port put in originally. I didn't want another scar if I could help it. Strange as it sounds, it's one of my favorite ones. Jason informed me it's one of his faves too. There's something about it. I think it's because it's so recognizable. You see someone with that clean scar and you can probably safely assume that it was used for administering chemo. Something like a badge of courage.

If I was bolder, perhaps I'd share my other scars, but I don't know about all that. Although I respect and admire the survivors willing to bare theirs completely. With that, I can perfectly segue into this photo I found of a stunning mastectomy scar cover up tattoo. The size and placement is fairly close to what I dream of having. Assuming that skin can be tattooed.

Seriously gorgeous (and inspirational) mastectomy cover up tattoo.

I have yet to see my gynecologist again. I was so tied up with appointments last month that I spaced on the time of the appointment and missed it. I really need to reschedule... as I have some irregularities and concerns. And I still want to get the IUD.
The fuuuun never ceases! Lol, and I do now have a brand new PCP, so I need to get in to see her. I have a million things I want to bring up with her but I also want to push for a referral for the cosmetic surgeon I want. Praying that will all work out.

Christ has gotten me this far. I trust He will continue to see me through. No matter the stress or pain or fear I must face, He is there. There is always comfort in that, and I need to focus on that when things get hard.

And well, that's about all I have for now everybody! Thanks for taking the time to read! May the Lord bless you and I wish you all a beautiful weekend! Make sure to go love who you love, be happy and make some lovely memories. :)

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Might not be a lot but I'm making the most

Well blog, seeing as I'm updating you less than a month since my last post, then you must know I come bearing news.

So I met with that plastic surgeon that my nurse navigator had heard of. That was one of the hardest days I had had in a long while on this journey. He took one brief glance at my chest and told me -- 

1.) I wouldn't be able to get tattooed there because the skin was far too thin.

and 2.) Simply having a smaller implant put in to replace my current one on the right side, was not going to be successful; therefore, it was not an option for me.

He went on to further deflate me by explaining my only option available would be either TRAM or latissimus dorsi flap surgery. Then, he explained that generally only plastic surgeons who do TRAM/lat flap surgeries on a regular basis are comfortable doing them. 

In other words, he was done dealing with me. I was too much of a hassle. If not, that's definitely the vibe I got off the experience. It was a $40 co-pay to be dismissed immediately. Frustrating as it was, it was eye opening.

I need a cosmetic surgeon who is going to be patient, kind and willing to help "fix" me. 

So begins another challenge. We are quite limited on the number of plastic surgeons covered by our insurance. There is one in particular, I have had recommended to me by multiple reliable sources that I'd really like to be able to see. So now Jason and I are working towards anything we can to try and make that happen. 

This doc I want, specializes in breast reconstruction. He's done a lot of the surgeries for women in the breast cancer support group I had been to before. I just feel God is pointing me towards seeing him. If that's true, I think this will all pan out the way we're hoping. Time shall tell. 

Even my general surgeon, Dr. Kushner, recommended this cosmetic surgeon to me. Speaking of Dr. Kushner! I saw him earlier this week about having my port removed FINALLY. He was concerned about the issue with my heart racing which I'll get back to, but I was able to schedule an appointment to have my port yanked.

I was given the choice to have it scheduled and done at the surgical center, or just done in the back room where his office is. Only difference is twilight sleep. I decided I'm okay not being put under for this. I still get local anesthetic, so it's not like I'll feel anything. I'll just look away when he's slicing and stuff. ;)

As for my heart, well, I did eventually get a phone call from my cardiologist's office. They said my blood work looked fine. No hyperthyroidism then or anemia. After being prompted by Dr. Kushner, I called and scheduled to get my echocardiogram. My cardiologist had another test he wanted me to get, so I scheduled that and a follow up as well. 

The other one is to monitor my natural heart rate for 3 days. So I have to wear a monitor and check in each day for that I guess? The fun never ends, you guys! Haha

Ah, I also finally made it in to see my gynecologist. I literally hadn't seen him since maybe a couple months after my original diagnosis. He was very relieved to see me alive and doing fine. I thanked him up and down for helping me move things along so quickly, since he was the one who confirmed further testing about the breast lump I had.

I should have seen him more recently, seeing as I'm more at risk for cervical/ovarian cancer as someone who has breast cancer. So I'm nervous about getting my pap results. Hopefully all is normal and well. I'm going back next week, to have a hormone-free IUD placed and he's going to do an ultrasound on my pelvic area.

As I said, the fun never ends! I still have more docs to visit after these ones too, but I don't want to think about that right now. Lol! But you know, I would take preventative maintenance appointments any day over a lot of other things.

Other than filling my weeks with as many doctor visits as I can manage, I've been working and napping and squeezing fun in here and there. 

Disneyland has been my life long happy-place/refuge, plus the hubby and I have a ton of sentimental  history as a couple attached to it as well. So we've had a chance to get back there a bit more recently. Not much more in life makes me happier than being there, nonetheless being there with him. :)

We can't afford to take a real vacation, so it's our next best thing. And I am blessed and grateful for it. <3

With the mention of expenses, I must bring up something I debated with myself whether or not to post about here.

Now, I try not to speak of our financial issues. Not for pride's sake, but because I never wanted to worry anyone. 

Before I go on, it should be said that we have received generosity and kindness from family, more than I ever feel we ever could have deserved, earlier on during this ordeal. That help was what kept us afloat. 

We are just about 2 years out since my DX. Treatment didn't end for me until May 2013, and my last surgery was in August 2013. We are still trying to pay off my radiation therapy. On top of that, my so-called routine testing, has a much heftier co-pay. Our specialists co-pay went up last year as well. 

You think if you're blessed enough to beat cancer, it's all sunshine and cupcakes afterwards. And in many ways, it is! But the upkeep to make sure you remain cancer free... the lasting side effects... the medical bills that never cease... 

It takes its toll. At the suggestion of one my dear friends, Stacey (she was a fellow Disney bride too!), Jason made an account for us on a medical fundraising website called Give Forward. The money donated, which I am shocked and humbled we've received as much as we have so far, is going to help us pay off our medical bills.

Please, by no means feel obligated... prayers are deeply appreciated, but if you're interested in donating to help us out, click HERE

I feel so strange asking for donations. I don't see how or why little ol' me would be any worthier than anyone else out there, but I do feel so immensely touched by the outpouring of loved ones sharing and donating. Not to forget those beautiful strangers who have as well! <3 I see Christ is alive and well in each of these kind souls.

I hope we'll be able to return the favor one day. By our Lord's grace and mercy, I know we will. 

Even with all our stressful money dealings, I can't complain. It could be so much worse. I am ever grateful for each day. I, very heartbreakingly, was slapped with this reminder when my friend and personal cancer-warrior-hero, Stan, lost his battle a few weeks ago.

His optimism and love is resounding. He was and shall ever be an inspiration to myself and many others. I never saw him whining about anything, ever. The guy had plenty cause, out of nearly everyone I've known, to complain too. He never did. He fought nearly without end for 3 years.

I aspire to be that way... although I'm sorry, Stan. I don't think I'm as saintly as you were. :) 

Stan with his lovely wife, Fatima
Rest peacefully Stan. May God bless you, my friend, and may He bless your courageous wife, my friend Fatima as well. Let us all be appreciative for our blessings, great and small.

That covers everything new in my little world.  I hope to have more to share, and hopefully all positive news at that, in the coming weeks. 

Wishing you all a marvelous March! God bless!

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."  Colossians 3:15

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Trying to hear above the noise

Happy (belated) 2014 to you blog-readers of mine! Hoping your new year has been filled with nothing but beautiful moments thus far!

I felt compelled to finally quit procrastinating and update this little ol' blog as today happens to be World Cancer Day. A day dedicated to debunking myths regarding cancer, as well as raising awareness.

Since last I posted... I went ahead and got my hair cut. I now have a fashionable pixie style that appears MOSTLY straight. Chemo curls were pretty well eradicated when I lost the extra hair length.

Good riddance, chemo curls!
I went and saw the cardiologist. Apparently some wires got crossed and I didn't receive an echocardio that day, but I did have an EKG done. Looked fine. My heart rate is still crazy high, around 115bpm, and the cardiologist suspected I might have hyperthyroidism. I got blood work done for it, and never heard back. So that's still a mystery that requires further investigation.

It restricts my lifestyle though. I get winded super easily since my heart is already beating so quickly, when it elevates due to exertion, I feel like I might pass out. :( So, I definitely need to find out what that's all about.

I finally made my appointment to see about having my port removed! Unfortunately it will be on Valentines Day. lol But ah well! I'm all about getting that sucker removed sooner than later. One less time I might have to get a needle shoved in there for my every-three-months port flush would be fabulous. It gets more painful each time, so no thank you.

And most importantly, I made the decision to give up on fighting my health insurance/HMO group regarding my cosmetic surgeon. It's an uphill battle that I would not be able to win easily. Aside from that, it must be happening this way for a reason. Again I've put my faith in the Lord, and spoke to my nurse navigator again, and she recommended a plastic surgeon that's been used by several ladies in the support group she runs.

My appointment with the new cosmetic surgeon is this Thursday afternoon. AH! Which reminds me! I had to pull some strings when I wanted to make that appointment too! Apparently my HMO needed me to get a recommendation from one of my doctors to see this surgeon. So I call my primary care, and guess what? Yeah, she's no longer at that office anymore. Never heard a word about it.

It wasn't even like she moved to another local office. She moved her practice to like, many cities away from here. Thankfully they got another doctor at that office to approve my referral. Phew. So, I still need to see about getting a new PCP now as well. If it's not one thing, it's another. Lol :)

Anyhow, I meet my new surgeon on Thursday. Lord willing, he'll be kind and confident he can fix my chestual region. :P

Unrelated to cancer prevention upkeep and post cancer maintenance, I found out from my dentist that I have a pretty severe cross bite and I will likely be getting braces in the near future.

Thanks to technological advances in dentistry, there are much more discrete options for adults. So I won't necessarily look like Darla from Finding Nemo. Hopefully. I may still think I'm a piranha though. No promises. ;3

Other than what I've been blabbing about, I'm just trying to continue to cherish each day. Some days are much trickier than cherish than others, I'll have you know. But Jason and Michonne-kitty make it worthwhile for me always. Even if everything else sucks, I have them to come home to, to love me and spend time with.

And that's that for now! Wishing you all the grandest of weeks!

"I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."    Psalm 18:1-2