Friday, March 30, 2012

Round 1: FIGHT!

One round of chemo down, 3 more to go!

I can officially, officially wear my I'm-a-cancer-patient badge of courage now! I was totally nervous and scared, but it wasn't bad at all. Of course I have no idea how the next few days will play out, but I'm praying to just be achy and exhausted. So, thank you to everyone who was praying for me thus far. It seems to be working. :) Please keep it up, if you wonderful readers/family/friends would be so kind!

I got to sit in a comfy chair for two and a half hours. They dripped Zofren to me first before administering my first chemo meds which was Cytoxan. After that was done, they set me up with some fluids, and then I got Adriamycin. Red stuff that looked super cool, and may or may not have made my pee orange later. >_> Haha

The worst I felt during the initial treatment was a headache. As soon as I mentioned it, I was brought Tylenol and it subsided shortly thereafter. Also got really chilly having cold liquid pumped into my veins, so I landed myself another warmed blanket! Which, I think if anyone asks me again if I need or would like anything during this... a cute blanket for chemo would be swell. :3 Speaking of warm, cute things! My oncologist office gets donations from different sources that actually knit head scarves, hats, and beanies for patients undergoing chemo. So I was able to pick out as many as I wanted/thought I'd need. :) God bless those individuals for doing such a kind and thoughtful thing. All of this stuff is pricey enough without worrying about buying multiple items to hide your hair loss. Also reminds me that we found out each chemo treatment, for my meds alone (anti-nausea, Neulasta, etc.), will be $200 each time. Sheesh. I feel so freaking blessed to have good medical insurance, I'd hate to see how costly they'd be without any.

Ah yes, and I now fully comprehend what people were referring to when I had read about "chemo brain". My mind is really cloudy and I feel rather dopey to be honest. Besides that, I'm just really tired so far. Like I said before, praying it stays that way. I now know though, as one of my nurses told me, after I have my Neulasta injection there's a good chance I will feel achy in my bones. It makes sense, as it replenishes your bone marrow though. It's meant to be self-administered, but I'm recruiting my poor sweet hubby as I can't look at needles being injected. That won't be until tomorrow however.
Something I didn't realize until today, after being told by other chemo patients, is food tastes different. The meds can affect your taste buds apparently, and I can confirm this. A small PB&J sandwich sounded delightful for dinner. Jason very sweetly made it for me, and as I began to nom my glorious sammich, I discovered I could barely taste peanut butter. Dude. Okay. That really sucks. I love me some peanut butter! Also, we have this delicious swiss cheese from Trader Joe's, and I wanted a couple saltines with some of that. I couldn't taste the yummy cheese either. :( Oh well. At least it's not permanent, or then my Anj-ish wrath might be invoked! Lol

Since I didn't post yesterday, I did stop off to purchase my wig yesterday. Nothing too crazy. Matches my current hair color perfectly, and she took my head measurements so it'll be fitted specifically for my head. It's a shorter wig, but cute and very me. Once it's in my possession and I am in need of modelling it, I shall take a photo. :) The nicest thing about that wig shop is that cut your hair for you once it's starts to fall out. I may jump ahead and when she calls to let me know my wig is ready, just come get it taken care of. It's guaranteed I will lose my hair, whether that's partial or all of it, who can say? But I'd rather get ready for wig wearing before I have to live with patchy hair first.

I really feel the need to publicly thank my beyond amazing, patient, loving and ridonkulously awesome husband. Thank you SO much babeh, for going through this with me by my side. I know I would not have the strength to bear this cross without both God and you to help me. This is exactly the type of man I always knew you were, and you've proven to be even better than that. I'm so grateful for you. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. I know I sure as hell love you in the same fashion! So, thank you sweet Jesus for giving me a husband I am almost certain I don't fully deserve, but am damn glad to have!

With that said, I have 2 songs for today's post and they are both dedicated to my lurve, a Mr. Jason Donahue:

 I also have one that that fella of mine requested I post for today, and it's a real good one:

Alrighty, so my cancer is officially getting pwned as I type this. I must keep this in mind if I feel crappy in the next few days. It will be because that lame ass cancer is trying to take me down with it, but I won't let it! Stupid jerkface it is. :P

Enough about mean old cancer. Time for a prayer instead! --

Dear Lord, 

My spirit I commit to You, my body, too, and all I prize;
Both when I sleep and when I wake,

You are with me;

I shall not fear.


God bless, and hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life in waiting

First things first, another song speaking to my feelings currently. Here's my song choice for this post:

Yesterday I had my PET/CT exam. I was rather nervous, as I didn't know what to expect but it was one of the easiest tests I've had performed on me so far. Allow me to break this down!

Paper work as per usual as a new patient and then got a wrist band with my name put on me. Taken to a room, get to sit down in a comfy ass chair then had an IV put in. Next the guy injects it with some radioactive sugars. Wish we had gotten a picture of the container it came in! It looked like when they are able to create that single cure right in the nick of time for some crazy bad virus in a movie. A single syringe sitting all pretty, isolated in some big ol' metal container. So awesome. :) Haha

Once I was injected with the radioactive junk, Jason and I discussed superpowers I may develop. Sadly, the only thing I seemed to develop was severe hunger-belly. Then again, maybe that was due to the fact that I hadn't eaten anything since 6pm the night before! Lol, either way, it felt epic.

By the way, the whole reason for that radioactive sugar stuff, well... I'll describe it as it was described to me. It's essentially candy for tumors. So, it goes into your bloodstream and when you get this exam done, the tumors show up as hot spots on the images. 

One of the best things about that exam? After I got that injection, I was TOLD to relax. Preferably nap even! So, I did just that for about an hour. He even covered me with warmed blankets!! Which now I want a blanket-warmer, k thx. Anyway, as soon as the hour was up, I was taken to get my images taken.

I was concerned it would be like an MRI, but I'm happy to say it was a lot better than an MRI. No loud noises, not as claustrophobic either. Plus, it was very quickly over with. And guess what else? He put fresh warm blankets on me for it! :D

Of course the awesome husby stayed with me throughout the whole thing. He even snapped a photo of me during the exam itself. You can't see me so much, but you can see the machine itself, which is sort of cool?

About halfway through the imaging, they put some sort of iodine contrast into my IV. It caused my entire body to feel instantly hot. The opposite reaction you feel from contrast dye you receive during an MRI. Strange that you can feel anything in your blood, honestly.

Oh, and after having fasted for a total of 19 hours, you can chow delicious Mexican food like a champ! At least you can if your name is Anj. >:3

I was supposed to get the results back from my doctor yesterday, but didn't hear anything 'til today. He apologized, and then I was told that the exam had confirmed our suspicions. My internal mammary lymph node is indeed cancerous. The good news? The rest of my body is good and healthy! Lungs, blood, liver, brain, etc. Other good news? I'm starting chemo on Friday, so that shit will be stomped out regardless!

Sooo... THANK YOU GOD! I'm so grateful my cancer is localized for the most part. This is a great little bit of good news that I needed. 

As for goings on for today, I made it into work. It was an easy baby shift. Right after I got off, I rushed home to get ready for another appointment. This one was even easier than yesterday. Simple ultrasound done on my heart. My heart is just fine as far as I know, but it's a routine thing any more for patients preparing for impending chemotherapy treatment.

On the way back, we stopped by a wig place that was recommended in the original breast cancer patient binder I was given by the hospital. Some very sweet older woman helped me try on tons of wigs. They custom fit the wig for you, and even cut your hair for you when you start to lose it. I found one wig Jason and I both thought was very me, but she didn't have it in my color. She said she'd order it, and tomorrow I will go by to try it on. I am 99.9% sure I'll be purchasing it too. :) I never thought of it, but she also suggested getting a sleeping cap for night time. I'm used to having hair, so it'd probably be cold for me without something like that. Another suggestion, was to buy one of the hats or scarves they have for when bumming around home. I won't want to wear a wig 24/7, for sure.

I get to live a normal day for the most part tomorrow. Longer shift at work, then pick up meds (albeit chemo-related meds), go by that wig place and then relax. Or try to. Because come 11:30am Friday morning, it's go time.

Keep the prayers coming guys. I need it.

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

Monday, March 26, 2012

Did somebody say chemo?

Between having to follow a strict diet in the 24 hours leading up to my PET/CT scan tomorrow, and discovering I will be begin chemo on Friday... I'm beat!

Let's begin with the latter first. I received my instructions for the PET several days ago, but I didn't pay attention to them closely until I read over them this morning.  It states, "Avoid caffeine, sugar and tobacco for 24 hours prior to your exam". Tobacco is no problem as I'm not a smoker. But sugar? Like, no sugar whatsoever? Even if it's in bread?? I was perplexed by this, so I contacted my wonderful nurse. She sent me back examples of foods I could eat, and referenced me this link.

Of course I was starving this morning, and most everything we have has some kind of starch or sugar in it. Finally settled with a couple slices of cheddar cheese and dry albacore tuna with some black pepper. Dull, but filled my belly and served its purpose!

I finished getting ready after I'd eaten, and we were out the door to meet my oncologist. I was told my appointment was at 1:15pm, so we showed up at 12:50 thinking we would allow time for paper work. Upon telling the receptionist this, I was informed my appointment was actually at 2pm. I was told 1:15 to do what else? Oh? allow time for paper work? Lovely! Haha.

After mountains of forms were filled out, we were finally called in. Met my oncologist who happens to be a very, very kind man. He's even a cancer survivor himself. :) He stepped out after talking to me for a few, so I could put on another sweet paper vest. When he returned, I had yet another exam done. It appears I'm very healthy with the exception of this damn cancerous tumor. Go figure.

So we got down to business pretty quickly. Found out another reason why we're going with neo-adjuvant chemo is because my tumor is so close to my chest wall it'd be hard to remove without taking pectoral muscle along with it as it is now. My regimen will be "dose-dense", and I will have 4 sessions. One dose every 2 weeks. This is wonderful news for me because it means I will be finished with chemo in 2 months instead of the originally anticipated 3! ^_^

Another bit of good news? Well, I don't have to get the port-a-cath put in. I'm all for less procedures, so um, yay! Okay, now for the unpleasant news. This way of administering my chemotherapy means my immune system will be compromised. Not totally negative though, as I will be given a shot I will have to give myself that helps with replenishing my white blood cell count/bone marrow. In turn, this means every week I will be going and getting blood drawn. This will be to check how my blood cell count is doing.

Jason intends on being there for each one of my sessions, and will take care of me in the days that follow, thank God. Once I have an idea of how my body reacts to the chemo, I can go on living my life the best I can. I'm rather anxious whenever I'm forced to wait. To me, it's nearly worse than the actual experience.

I shall be praying for my anxieties to be washed away as only God is capable of doing. I also pray that my body accepts the chemo and that any side effects I endure will be tolerable. Jesus, I also plead that my fertility will not be affected by this treatment. I shall accept this if it may be your will that I am not to be a mother, but I pray that I may have the opportunity. Besides, Jason would be a fabulous father (and we'd be a kick ass duo as parents. :D ) So... pretty please?

Phew, I still can't believe so much has happened in such a short amount of time. Part of me is still reeling from the news, and another part is just 100% grateful it's been found and will be treated.

On a happier note, I'm going wig shopping tomorrow after my PET scan! Figures that I finally get a new cute hair cut and I'm going to lose my hair. Haha. Between you and me, I'd rather lose my hair due to treatment than lose my life because I was too vain to accept it. Hair grows back, so who cares? :P

Okay guys. I think I've said enough for now. My appreciation for continued support, love and most of all,  prayers! I leave you all with a couple things for today --

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  1Peter 5:10

God bless all of you!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

God can be funny

Just a song for today, and another image I made. It was suggested I create a family-friendly version conveying the same message. :)

Tomorrow is my appointment with my oncologist. I promise a post with substance after that.

Have a lovely week guys! God bless!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oh I know the sun must set to rise

Work takes a lot more out of me than it did just a week ago. I survived my shift, but it was definitely trying. People seemed surly in general, and I nearly lost my composure a handful of times. It's as I mentioned in my previous posts, life simply looks completely different once you're dealt something like this. Things I found important before seem so insignificant now.

I try harder than ever to get a smile out of an unhappy person. Even if I don't crack them, I know that I've given it my best effort. :)

Don't have a lot else to say at the moment, but I did have a few songs to share that are resonating today.

Jason's input for today:

And two for me: 

My thanks once again to any and all reading. Hope the rest of your weekend is a happy one, and God bless!   

Friday, March 23, 2012

Not gonna break my soul

As expected, the cancer conference (a.k.a. tumor board) did yield us more information. Jason accompanied me today, the trooper he is as usual, and we arrived early. There were four other people there whose surgeons would be presenting their cancer cases for discussion with the other doctors . I was very obviously the youngest person present. Not surprising, but I felt as if no one would even glance in my direction because of it.

I was actually the first one called in to the exam room. I was then asked to remove my top attire and replace it with a mammo cape. They are super sweet and fashionable of course. I was telling Jason after my biopsy that I would bring one home to wear if I could! It's like boxers for boobies. Airy and non-restrictive! Haha. He also happened to take a dorky photo of me modelling it for him, in which I am wearing a total cheese smile. Worry not readers, I will spare you the sight. ;)

After I had changed, doctors single-filed in. In all, there were 9 present to check me out. I was asked to show them and then some came up and examined me. As awkward as embarrassing as it is, it was over in an instant thankfully.

We returned to the waiting room until my breast surgeon called us out to talk privately. I received some news I wasn't fully ready to receive. All of our game plan so far for this battle was about to be changed. Instead of rushing to surgery, we will be doing "neo-adjuvant chemotherapy" first. What this means is that I'll be doing three months of chemotherapy before anything else happens.

The reason for this sudden change of plan? Well, apparently they got a better look at my MRI and it seems as though I had a lymph node next to my tumor. The doctors that discussed what they saw, all agreed that is is likely also cancerous as well. While I find on Tuesday for certain whether it is or not with the PET/CT scan, they're setting me up with an oncologist for Monday. My surgeon is going to schedule me for a procedure to have a port put in this coming week as well. It's a tube he will put in my skin under my collar bone that they will plug the IV into to administer my chemo. Fun stuff! :P

The good news out of this is that we'll be killing that cancer ASAP. This means the tumor will likely shrink. I could opt for a lumpectomy at that point, but I will most certainly still be gunning for the double mastectomy down the line. The ultra fool-proof deciding factor for me will be the results from my genetic counseling test, which I had blood drawn for today.

Chemo is the scary-to-face, yucky-sounding part... but if I'm going to kill that mean ass cancer sooner, then why not? I'm certain I will lose my hair, but I'm oddly excited! It will mean I'll get to buy/wear cute wigs. Haha. Also, I won't have to worry about doing my (impossible) hair! Not all awful, y'know!

Christ allowed this to happen to me because He must have felt I could carry the weight of this cross. I only pray I may carry it with just an ounce of the grace and quiet fortitude He had as He carried His own. He doesn't give us more than we can handle.

Attempting to return to work tomorrow. Other than that, it will be a peaceful weekend free of doctor appointments. It's been a long, long week so I'm looking forward to some relaxation. This week seems as though it has been three weeks combined into one.

Something tells me my life will be that way for a while too...

Jason requested I post a song he feels sums up our situation currently. He believes it speaks truthfully about the fact that in the grand scheme of things, he and I are stuck in a moment; but everything will get better. :

And I think I'd like to make a point of posting a song each post from now on that represents how I'm feeling currently about my ordeal, so here's my pick for today. :

Now I know that song was written about a breakup, but let's pretend it's about fighting cancer instead of ditching some jerky fella. >_> I think the heart of the speaks for what I'm feeling though - "Throw your sticks and stones. Throw your bombs and your blows, but you're not gonna break my soul. This is the part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me."

Not going down without a fight, and cancer is not going to take away my Anj-ness! Nope, no sir!

Alright, and I realize I keep saying it, but I'm so grateful for all the love we have been shown since this all started. It's overwhelming, in the nicest way imaginable! So, huge thank you once again for all the kindness, love, support and generosity. :)

Well, that's all for now! God bless all, and have a wonderful weekend! Cherish every moment and count each blessing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Are those real or fake?

It's been three days now since my world got turned inside out.

I'm not going to lie to any of you reading this. Nothing looks the same once you've found out you have cancer. And while being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer is not by any means a death sentence, you realize your life will not and cannot be the same.

A perfect example of this? I never imagined I would step foot in a cosmestic surgeon's office in my lifetime. However, that is precisely what I did today. I feel guilty that I may have ever felt judgmental about anyone who could entertain the thought of artificially altering what God gave them. Without plastic surgeons it would be impossible for me to feel like a woman again after my surgery.

The consultation today was simple. My cosmetic surgeon examined my breasts to see what would be needed to be done. He also showed me where the incisions would be made, then took some photos so I'll be able to see a before and after comparison. That was about it. Pretty painless, although I was still extremely nervous. I have an appointment to verify the details (size, etc.) with him next Tuesday.

I was joking with Jason afterwards that I had asked God to give me bigger boobs when I was a young teenager. Ironically, I will be getting them after all, but not exactly in the same fashion I had in mind. :)

On the way to the appointment, I got a call from my breast surgeon's nurse. I guess the results of my MRI were hard to read due to my hormone levels being high from the point I was at in my cycle. So now I have an appointment on Tuesday for a PET scan. I have no idea what that is exactly, haha, but  I do know it's a full body scan. Also on Tuesday is my appointment with a genetic counselor.

So, one thing I've determined so far about having cancer is that your life becomes A LOT busier! Lol

In all sincerity though, I had my first actual break down last night. I was just so overwhelmed and exhausted, everything seemed bleak. I just shut down and could not stop sobbing. Thankfully though, that wonderful husband of mine took matters into his own hands. I was scheduled to work at 6am, and he decided I needed to rest. He called my boss, and explained why I could not make it in in the morning. Relief washed over me when Jason told me what he'd done. He then held me and I was finally able to calm down.

The world looked much brighter this morning after I had a full night's rest. Hubby stayed with me again today, made me breakfast, and I lounged around making this before my appointment:

When all you want to do is punch the abnormal cells making your life suck all of a sudden (and they happen to be crazy intangible), what better way to express your frustration? ^_^;

Tomorrow we go for tumor board. A board of different specialists, my breast surgeon included, will be presenting my case. They will then discuss their opinions, suggested treatment, and come check out the patient. I'm seriously hoping to find out a possible timeline for when my surgery will be taking place by tomorrow, but that's just a hope for now.

Saturday I will attempt to go back to work again. Hoping I'll be composed enough to make it through a full shift, but I have faith in myself.

Just want to thank any and all of you reading this. Also want to thank any of you praying for me, sending me love, etc. I have never felt so loved and appreciated in all my life.

There are a couple of personal missions I'd like to take from this awful experience. First of all, I want to do my best to learn as much from this as I can. I intend to be a better person today than I was yesterday, and I intend to be even better tomorrow. Secondly, I want to raise as much awareness for breast cancer as humanly possible. While it's never good news to find out you have cancer, thank God I caught it early and I now know.

And now that I know, it's time to fight back. :D

God bless you all... and no matter how icky things get, never give up!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life is a slightly different shade since yesterday

Hiya! For any stranger who comes across this, my name is Anjanette. To my loved ones, I am simply known as Anj. I'm a 26 year old woman, and as of yesterday (March 20, 2012), I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Yeah, I know. Kind of a doozy of an intro, right? But hey, I've gotta start somewhere, and since yesterday, it feels like starting anew doesn't seem all that bad of an idea.

For now, let's back up to when this all began...

Approximately 2 months ago my husband, Jason, and I were getting ready to move. I had finally landed a job after a lengthy period of unemployment. My new workplace would be much closer to where Jason's work was. He had been driving an hour and a half commute to (and from) work each day as we were unable to relocate without a second income.

It was during this stressful and busy time, I noticed a small lump in my right breast while I was taking a shower. I shrugged it off, figured my annual gyno appointment would be soon and I could have it examined then.

Fast forward to earlier this month. Jason and I have been moved into our place since mid January, and I've been working at Starbucks for nearly the same amount of time. Our life finally felt perfect. Humble, but I couldn't complain. So many of our prayers had been answered all at once. I felt immensely blessed. Except for one, little thing -- again, while showering, I tested the lump I'd found. I freaked out. That damn lump somehow seemed larger! I was nervous, but convinced myself I'd been overreacting. It couldn't possibly be the C word. I'm young, healthy. Never been a huge drinker. Never smoked. Never done drugs. Not to mention my family has no history of breast cancer.

Regardless, I felt concerned and sought some peace of mind. I originally made an appointment with my old gyno who was located back in the area where we had been living. The soonest I would have been able to get in was, guess when? March 20th! Ah, the irony. Hubby was not pleased at how long it would be before I'd get looked at. So, after he'd asked some co-workers for suggestions, and it was through one of those suggestions I found the amazing doctor and medical group currently dealing with me.

After my initial appointment with my gynecologist on March 9th, he immediately ordered me an ultrasound/mammo to further examine the breast mass in question. Exactly a week later, on March 16th, I went in and in the same day, had an ultrasound biopsy done. As it was done on a Friday, my results wouldn't be in until Monday evening. My appointment was scheduled for that following Tuesday. Yep, March 20th. A day I will never forget, but hope to one day forgive.

I was hopeful, so I showed up unattended expecting to find out that my biopsy had come back negative. You know something? Expectations really suck. I was taken into the consultation room, and the doctor who performed my biopsy came in. I immediately had a sinking feeling. Not certain whether this is routine for negative results or not, but to me, this seemed like a bad omen. I was correct in my notion.

As he spoke the words, my shock/disbelief/grief/fear had to be all over my face. As it took a moment to sink in, once I'd digested what I'd heard, I broke into tears. How else do you react to such heartbreaking and frightening news? I needed my husband.

My nurse navigator, a terribly sweet and wonderful woman named Susann, swept me away to her office in an instant. She supplied me with tissues, allowed me the time to call Jason, and then gave me all the cold, hard facts about what I was going to be facing next.

I specifically have infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Basically, my cancer began in the milk duct, and has grown outside of it now (thus the infiltrating bit). It's kind of a guess at this point, but it's at somewhere between stage 1 and 2. The good news? My lymph nodes are not infected as of writing this, thank God. The bad news? It has a "high combined histologic grade". Wtf does that mean? Well, the doctors tell me it means it's active and growing quickly.

Okay, I could comprehend all this. The next course of action was for me to get an MRI, um, ASAP. I'm pretty claustrophobic, but knew it wasn't a choice for me to skip out on. The miracle workers at my medical group, happened to have an opening yesterday and squeezed me in. Susann sat through the entire MRI with me. It was such a relief to have simply another human being in the room with me who could sympathize.

After that, I had an appointment about an hour later to meet with a breast surgeon. By that time, Jason was able to make it down to be there supporting me. I don't know if I've ever felt so grateful for him. I love that fella so much, I don't know what I'd do without him through this...

Once my consultation with the breast surgeon was done, I understood things much more clearly. I knew what options I had, and a pretty good idea of what my choice would be. While I may not be 100% sure, I am 99.9% sure that I will be getting a double mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery.

I wish to eradicate this cancer, and make sure it can't come back. I will do what it takes to ensure that much. If it means losing my real boobies, so be it! The jerks are trying to kill me anyway. So eff you, boobs! :P

Tomorrow I have a consultation with a plastic surgeon. I will be posting updates and my thoughts during this process. I need somewhere to vent/keep people updated/inspire other young women experiencing the same thing.

So, I suppose that's all I know and have to say for the time being. I know with the love and support of God, my husband, family and friends, I will kick the shit out of this cancer. I don't intend to go down without a fight.

My life has been forever changed since March 20th, but I shall only allow that to be for the better.

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Remember, everything happens for a reason.