Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fun funny feelings

As I last posted, I am now in the queue for surgery. FINALLYYYY! :)

This waiting business keeps me on pins and needles. My nerves have been a jumbled mess! Seems it's emotionally trying to do what you would otherwise think would be easy in comparison to other stuff I have encountered this year.

Normally I'm at home during the week, and if I were sitting around expecting a phone call, it would never come. Well, I hadn't mentioned it earlier because I wasn't 100% sure I would be able to attend (if my surgery had been this week afterall) but yesterday I got to go to a recording of the Ellen DeGeneres Show!!! :D My mommy-in-law, Violet, scored tickets for us earlier this month! 

Through my chemo especially, I found myself making it a point to watch Ellen everyday. I noticed how positive she is, her show is, and how watching brought a little more sunshine into my days. There's so much dreadful gloomy junk on TV and I already had enough heaviness going on in my life. And let's face it, who needs more of that? So her show has especially become my little dose of funny throughout this.

Back to us having tickets! Yay! Haha, so Violet and Bre (my lovely sis-in-law) came by yesterday morning and we trekked up to Burbank to see us some Ellen! We got there by 11ish, so we were a wee bit early! Lol. Unable to check-in until 2pm. Ahh well! We went on foot to grab some lunch at a nearby eatery called The Smoke House Restaurant. It was an old place with actually, pretty tasty foodstuffs! We shared a piece of Boston cream pie for dessert and it was beyond amazing!

Once we got back to wait to be checked in we were each given a survey to fill out. One of the questions asked whether you were or knew a breast cancer survivor. Talk about irony! :) And something truly touching happened while I was filling out mine...

Another woman waiting to be in the audience came up to me and introduced herself. She wanted to wish me well and said, "I just wanted to let you know you're not alone. That you will get through this. Someday you'll be able to give someone else going through it encouragement too and continue the sisterhood". To which I said, "I plan on it!", and her reply was, "you will".

That woman was a survivor herself. She beat cancer in 2009. Love that!! I do intend to do all I can to help breast cancer patients (and cancer patients in general) once I have beat it. Not sure how yet, but I'll figure it out! The Lord will clear the details up for me in time.

So, after waiting and some more waiting, we were seated in the studio. But then we were encouraged to dance, dance and dance some more! Lol! It was so much fun! We were also encouraged to take photos of ourselves being there before turning off our phones.

Woohoo!!! Ellen time!

Before even going, I promised Jason I would do the charleston. Bre and I made a pact to dance like total goober white girls on national television. And we totally did. I have it DVR'd and need to see if any of our awesome moves wound up on screen. It was another really fun and enjoyable outing for me. Those are all the more treasured by me these days!

After seeing Ellen in person, I respect and admire her even more than I did. Such a genuine and caring person. Hope to go back and see her show live again some time in the future. :)

Sooo, today I am grateful for funny people! Because laughter is a powerful tool to help others too.

Now we'll get back to my millions of phone calls while I was out. Haha, okay, a million might be slightly exaggerated. But just slightly. ;)

The blood work I had done was checked by my primary care physician. She found my WBC to be a little high, so she wanted me to be retested. Spooky, because that could mean my immune system is fighting something. Alternative reasoning could be that I was really stressed. I'm praying/hoping it's the second option. I had my redraw today so we should find out in a few days.

That's all I got for now folks, enjoy the rest of your week! I hope it's a pleasant one for you!

God bless and just keep swimming!

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."  Psalm 16:8

Friday, September 21, 2012

It sucks, but do it anyway!

This past Tuesday came and went without a peep. I swear I do make an effort to be patient while waiting for any news. It simply comes to a point after you've been practicing patience for months that you become antsy. I called the following afternoon, and Dr. Kushner told me he was still waiting on replies. He assured me this wouldn't delay my surgery, which he still wanted to get scheduled for next week. 

After giving it thought over last weekend, I had decided I didn't want to go through 2 additional hours of chest surgery so they could remove the mammary lymph node that'd been troublesome. I'm getting radiation therapy either way, so what's the point? I mentioned this to Kushner, which he had been giving me plenty of reason to think it was a wise decision. 

There's been studies done on cancer patients who had cancerous lymph nodes removed versus those who were given radiation/chemo. The ones who had nodes removed encountered more complications and their survival rate was no better. With my particular case, that lymph node of mine is way deep in my chest. So it's even tricky to get to on top of it all. Not worth it to me to try and get to. 

As he told me his surgery scheduler was calling my cosmetic surgeon's office to get my surgery scheduled, I got a call that interrupted us. I let it go to voicemail, and ironically enough, it was his scheduler giving me a date. FINALLY! 

The catch is that all month I'd had my heart and mind set on the end of September. And for two weeks solid, I was assured it was the last week of September. The reality? October 10th. 

 I was pretty displeased at first. I wanted to fight it, but it was too late to do so Wednesday and I had an early early morning appointment to see my cosmetic surgeon Thursday. Jason kept telling me that it might wind up being for the best. Urging me to accept whether it was my real surgery date or not. 

My husby being completely mature about holding breast implants.

After my appointment with Dr. Mowlavi I discovered that October 10th was the way it was meant to be. There's quite a lot I need to do and get ready before my surgery (blood work, EKG, chest x-ray, clearance from my PCP, etc.). If it were next week, it would be very stressful to get everything ready in time. 

So, October 10th it is.  There's your cue Mr. Post Title --

"It sucks, but do it anyway!" :D

Jason took this for me, while waiting to see the plastic surgeon, so I could see my chemo-wavy hair. I still can't believe how LIGHT it is!

Of course what would this experience be without a little added uncertainty? Mowlavi asked what Kushner had told me when I spoke with him about my MRI results. I told him what I knew - radiation for sure, great skin sparing potential, and recommended I have expanders rather than implants put in right away. 

I only know what I'm told, therefore I don't know typical treatment protocol. He was bewildered by my claim that I could have nipple sparing on my right breast if I were having radiation. Apparently that's weird. Haha, how would I know that though?? 

So the two of them have yet to firm up details and let me know my exact game plan. But as it stands, the only thing not finalized is whether I will wake up with my implant for my left breast or if it will have to be an expander instead as well. Again, "it sucks, but do it anyway!". Lol

I'd love to take credit for my new found mantra, but it's from a new song by the talented Ben Folds Five. I highly recommend you all give this a listen. Besides its tremendous fabulousness, the video itself is adorable:

Living life doesn't always go the way you want it to, believe me, but do it anyway. ^_^ You'll get through it. You can be better or worse for it. It all depends on how you look at it.
Between this week and last, it turned out to be a lot of news and information to digest. Now that I've warmed up to the thought of having a solid date to have the source of my cancer removed from my body, I feel at peace. I know I'll become restless as it grows closer, but until then, I feel peaceful. The Lord certainly knows what he's doing, and I best not forget that. ;) 

Anyway... I wanted to mention some nice things that happened for me and Jason in the middle of this flurry of medical madness!

Some time back, Jason's mom had mentioned getting this fabulous deal on Groupon for wine pairing meal at a fancy restaurant called The Cellar. She told us that she and her boyfriend Andrew wanted to take us to it once my chemo was complete and I felt up to it. This past Saturday, we got dressed up and got to go! It was such a fun, fun outing. We desperately needed a "normal" night out. Yummy food with delicious wine and wonderful company. Just perfect! 

The unfortunate part of that outing meant we had to skip out on going to the second fundraiser event to support my SIL Marylou and our friend Denise's Susan G. Komen 3-Day (go Team Anj!! Again I will plug it - please donate!). From what I heard, and the photos I saw, it was wildly successful. We'll be there at the next one guys!

On Sunday the hubby and I were both pooped. We've been talking for months about how to figure out our sleeping arrangement once I'm home recovering. For the past 5 and half years we'd been sleeping on a full mattress. Not always the comfiest, but we managed. My parents very generously offered us their king-sized guest mattress in exchange for our old one. As sweet as that is on its own, they took the time to stop by Sunday morning and do the mattress switch for us. Such an amazingly kind gesture!

Next one takes some backstory... haha.

My favorite band is called The Dresden Dolls. Been in love with their unique music since I was first introduced to them approximately 7 years ago. I have been able to see them perform live twice. Always wanted to grab their autograph, particularly leadsinger/pianist Amanda Palmer. I adore her. She's a strong kick ass woman. 

When I was diagnosed earlier in the year and unbeknownst to me, Jason took it upon himself to contact many of my favorite places and people telling them my situation and asking if they would mind doing something for me. One of the ones he had contacted happened to be Ms. Amanda Palmer. Well, they got back to him. Her street team informed him that they'd get Amanda to make postcard out to me. It came in our mail this week!!

I looooove Amanda Palmer!!!  P.S. He is a good one!

My point? You gotta take the good with the bad. There has to be some rain before a rainbow can be born. Thankfully I can see the positive in the rain too. :)

 God bless all of you. 

"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."   Philippians 2:14-15

Friday, September 14, 2012

The endless in-between

This week has been quite the roller coaster! Wednesday was my big appointment day. Got up early and got down to my cosmetic surgeon's office off of PCH. Beautiful view of the ocean over there! Anyway, we got in there and I could not figure out how to put on the examination top I had been asked to put on. Lol... I waited until Dr. Mowlavi got in the room and he assisted by getting the snap buttons all put together. Apparently there was a way to make it wearable after all! Haha. 

Pick a size, ANY size!

He didn't spend a ton of time with us as I was so unsure of the game plan. All I could offer him was the promise of surgery this month. But he needed to know if I was going to require radiation, etc. I'm not sure I comprehended this on our initial visit way back in March, but he specializes in doing immediate reconstruction as opposed to the more traditional way of doing it in steps.

I was thrilled to hear him say that, but my excitement was quickly deflated. It would only be possible if I didn't require radiation treatment. So, there was A LOT left up in the air. He had me reschedule and we're going to see him again next Thursday. This time I'll have all the information he needs.

Feeling somewhat bummed, we returned home for a while as my MRI appointment wasn't until 1pm. Unrelated, yet still related, I have panic disorder and I regularly take medication that helps me manage my panic attacks. I have been on it for years. My psychiatrist is out in the Temecula area, and seeing as I only see her once a year, I saw no point in finding a new one. Well, last weekend I discovered I'd run out of refills. I attempted to refill it and see if the pharmacy could garner her approval. It was declined. 

Now, that's understandable considering most docs want you to come see them before giving you further refills. Normal practice, but taking my situation into consideration, this seemed like SUCH a burden. In her favor, she had no idea I had this going on. I had to call and play phone tag between the pharmacy and my psychiatrist's office all day yesterday. Fun times! 

Thankfully, my persistence paid off. When she finally got the message from the receptionist she talked to me for probably 15 minutes or so and then faxed her approval for several months of refills immediately after we hung up. Phew.

Getting back to the story of Wednesday... this refill nonsense matters because I hadn't had my medication to help with my panic disorder in like, 2 days at that point. I was already kind of on edge about doing this MRI because of my possible "allergic reaction" to the CT contrast dye I had last time I had testing done. 

You'd think I would have been more logical about it as that was third breast MRI this year for me and I'd never had an issue with the dye before.  The times before I had been given a pair of headphones over my earplugged ears. I could hear the tech tell me how much time is remaining in the set, and music streams through the rest of the time. She accidentally forgot to give me that this time, so I was even more tense. I just kept my eyes shut most of the time and prayed. 

Between the prayers and having my hubby in the room, I got through it fine. :)

Me being totally sexy in my MRI getup.

Sometimes I'm convinced that the down time is far more painful than the actual testing/treatment/procedure is. Yesterday and especially today, I was convinced that was true. I spent the day with my cell phone by my side, flip-flops on and a hat within reach in case I needed to jump up and step outside to answer (we get AWFUL cell reception in our apartment).

As 2pm rolled around and I still hadn't heard a peep from my surgeon, I was afraid I'd be without the news of my results all weekend. I called their office and got through to his scheduler, who was away from her desk or on the phone already. Left a message about just checking to get my results and asked to be called back. Around 3:30pm, I was entertaining the thought of whether to go outside and try calling again. That's about when Dr. Kushner called me. 

He had presented my case to the weekly held cancer conference once again, which was why he hadn't called sooner. He sounded solemn, which worried me and must have shown in my voice because he immediately reassured me that it wasn't bad news. The tumor in my breast is gone. It has miraculously melted away, and my enlarged internal mammary lymph node is now back to a normal size. 

Awesomesauce, right? Well... mostly.

It is now a guarantee I will be having radiation. I will also be having expanders put in, and will be unable to have them filled with saline until my radiation therapy is finished. This means I will be completely flat until then. :\ 

Which as much as all that sucks, I'm the most frightened about the possibility of them wanting to try to surgically remove the lymph node. My surgeon didn't seem very keen on the idea of it, but he's going to speak with a well known breast cancer surgeon named Armando Giuliano next week and get his opinion. 

Dr. Kushner is going to be in touch with me after that, and he says as long as I'm game for it, the week following next will be the week. I told him I'm ready when he is and the sooner the better. I'm on pins and needles to get this surgery out of the way.

I will say that I am grateful to have such a compassionate medical team that is willing to take the extra time to do what will be most beneficial for me in the long run. And whatever fear I feel, I must keep reminding myself to give it up to God. He has seen me through to this point and I know He will see me through to the end.

I may not be able to see why my journey is being extended, but I'm certain it's happening this way for a reason. All I have to do is hold on to my faith and just wait this out. :)


Have you ever wondered why those days exist
When life just seems to be the conspiracy against you
I don't know where the answers lie
But I try not to get hung up on the questions

I burn like a good bonfire
In whatever I do
I burn like a good bonfire
And I know I'll come through

The time is long overdue for a house clearing of the soul
We all get so complicated in our lives
When walking just walk, when sitting just sit when being just be
Above all don't stray from your chosen path

Burn like a good bonfire
In whatever you do
Burn like a good bonfire
And I know you'll come through
Burn like a good bonfire
In whatever you do
Burn like a good bonfire
And may peace come to you
Such a beautiful song and it sums up how I'm feeling perfectly right about now. ^_^ Well, that's all for today. Have a great weekend everyone! God bless! 

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you"   Psalm 9:10

Friday, September 7, 2012

Paper vests and booby-sandwiches

Oh cancer, you never cease making my life more colorful by exposing me to a world I would otherwise be unfamiliar with at my age. Particularly the realm of paper vests and booby-sammiches! The what and the what? Haha! Well, I suppose even if you were familiar with these things already, you might be perplexed by my loving nicknames for them. So here I go! ;)

This past Tuesday, I went for my standard weekly blood draw. I got voicemail on Wednesday from my oncologist nurse Julie letting me know that my WBC and all else were almost back to normal already! This meant, no further need for me to go get blood drawn every week! After 6 months of this routine, I was ecstatic to no longer need to go do it. I bet my veins on my right arm/hand are even happier than I am though!

Truly a grand way to start off a busy and informative week. Thursday I had my appointment with Dr. Kushner. Ah, the return to needing paper vests in my life. Lol! More appointments = more exams = paper vests, capes, etc. Though the paper vests, by far, are the most horrendous and uncomfortable. I do wonder if even the sexiest bombshell of women feel like a hot mess whilst wearing one too? How could you not? >_<

Honey, they're not paying you enough that model that atrocity.

Moving on! So Kushner did an exam. Felt no lump... lymph nodes felt fine too. :D He got down to business giving me more info on surgery. Not quite as much as I would have liked, but that wasn't his fault. I hadn't had any imaging done yet and I still need to see my cosmetic surgeon again before he can give me specifics. I think it's all riding on whether to see if they need to worry about that stupid internal mammary lymph node or if chemo melted its face.

What I do know now for sure is that, yep, the surgery will happen in September. I'll have to get blood work and an EKG done when I'm nearing surgery. Once the tatas are removed, I will then likely be in the hospital afterwards for 2-3 days. I also know that my overall recovery from the surgery will take between 4 to 6 weeks.  What I don't know yet? Ah, well, radiation therapy is still up in the air. That's fine though. I've said it a thousand times before and I'll say it again, whether I'm meant to have it or I'm not, I trust God. :)

I brought up that strange icky bump on my port-a-cath scar to him. He took a look and sure enough, it was a suture that my body didn't absorb. Apparently my body tried to wall it off because it thought, "hey! that's a foreign object!". Bizarre considering that big ol' port lives inside me just fine! Dr. Kushner gave me some localized numbing agent stuff and basically poked a scalpel in it and got it out. So gross right? A bit more gross yet, Jason asked him if there was a way he could keep it. Hahaha. Boys! I don't get it. 

Today I had my imaging appointments I mentioned in my previous post. And in steps the booby-sandwiches! This year I went from having had zero mammos to having three! If you've never experienced one, then calling it the booby-sandwich machine is the most accurate description possible. It's not the worst thing ever, but it's not very pleasant either. It squeezes your breast(s) in between two flat surfaces. It's obviously done with some sort of x-ray too I suspect as they make me wear a lead apron. Oh, and that thing where the technician runs behinds a wall of protection as the machine hums away.

Behold! A booby-sandwich machine in all its glory.

But what's better than enduring one booby-sammich experience in a day? Having TWO in one day! Haha. My tumor was always tough to see on the mammo imaging because of the proximity to my chest wall... so I wasn't surprised when the tech had to call me back to do another round. She said the doctor wanted the clip marker (left from my biopsy) to be visible in the images, thus why it needed to be redone.

Ultrasounds are always a breeze, but with all the sandwiching my poor chest went through between both imagings, it was pretty red. I wasn't clever enough to wear a top that didn't have a lower neckline. Oops. Lol.

I already got a call from Dr. Wagner's office earlier this evening letting me know my results of both of those too. No sign of malignancy present. PTL! Both techs told me that at the time, but hearing it officially felt great.

Next on my appointment agenda is to see my cosmetic surgeon this coming Wednesday. Later that day I'll be getting my MRI as well. I imagine I'll be get a surgery date solidified after that. It's my next big hurdle so I'm anxious to get over it.

Pardon me if this post was all over the place. ^_^;  My chemo brain has certainly kicked in as of late. I'm sure my current lack of sleep does nothing to help matters either. And with that said, I think it's time I attempt to catch some zzz's.

May God bless you all with an enjoyable and safe weekend and week to follow!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." Ephesians 6:10

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stepping into the unknown

This past Thursday we got some of the best news we've had; we can officially say we've completed the chemotherapy chapter! 

To say this is a relief would be putting it mildly. I am beside myself with appreciation. I know all of those prayers I have said... and all those of anyone else who has been praying for me have most certainly been heard. The Father has blessed me with an ending to this part of my treatment. And by his loving grace, I am now preparing for the next chapter of this journey.  :)

I don't need to see my oncologist for 2 months now, which should all go according to plan, be a post-op appointment. Here is the other news we learned from seeing him Thursday -- I'm doing well. After an exam, he felt no trace of the original tumor. He also said my axillary lymph nodes felt normal. My surgery will definitely be in September. He's in touch with my surgeon, so I'll take his word for it. Dr. Wagner also said he doesn't believe I'll need radiation. He said he couldn't give me an absolute on that, but he thinks it's unlikely. All fabulously positive music to my ears!

I was also cleared to return to work. I went on Monday to speak with my boss, giving him an update and notice of my possible return. It may seem silly to go back for a few weeks, but if I can, I'd love to. While I love having all the time in the world to sit on my butt and play World of Warcraft, etc. it does get dull after a while. :P  Haha. (If the expansion was already out, that might be another story... lol!)

Actually, it has really been a great week for me! Aside from being told I have graduated from chemotherapy, we had a very very special surprise on Wednesday. My MIL Karen and Grandma Marilyn (Jason's stepmommy Karen and his Grandma) showed up on our doorstep!! Bear in mind, they moved to Washington earlier in the year, so we hadn't seem them in ages... it was SO sweet and unexpected! Made me tear up. We've missed them so much, and for them to fly out here just so we can get some hugs and love from them? A-maz-ing. Love those ladies!!!

Our weekend will be packed with more precious time spent with more family too! Tomorrow we're going to see my Mom and Dad. Spend some time at their place hanging out with them, along with some bonus time visiting my kitty cat. Miss that adorable gato too! Sunday we're going to a get together with hubby's Mommy's side. I'm looking forward to all of it. These sorts of gatherings are all the more appreciated by me now. Each minute with family should be spent creating a memory. So here's to some happy and fun new ones that  I'm hoping to create this weekend! ;)

Jason and I are both far more relaxed since we got my no-more-chemo news. It's that sorely needed moment to exhale. We've been trying to make sure we enjoy all of our time spent with one another. My favorite time spent with him is when we're just being dorky and silly. Playing video games together, making up songs and singing them at ridiculously random times and tickle fights. I haven't said it in a while, but I'm always thinking it; I kind of love my husband! I'm grateful to have him alongside me throughout this. Not that it's always been easy for either of us, but we'll make it through this... and we will do it together. 

Our relationship has a solid foundation build on our Lord, our love and His love. That's only the winningest combination ever, so we're good. Haha.

As for what's next, it's still somewhat of a question mark. I had some tests ordered. An ultrasound and a mammogram. That occurs next Friday morning. I called and got my appointment with my surgeon set up too. That will be Thursday. My oncologist spoke with my surgeon today, and apparently Dr. Kushner also wants me to get another MRI. Gotta wait for the order to go through on that before I get that set up. Once I've had all my tests and initial appointments, I'll be doing more waiting. I'm hopeful, as I always am, that seeing Dr. Kushner will yield me with a surgery date finally. That's probably wishful thinking on my part. Lol

 Well, that about does it! I shall fill you all in as we get closer to knowing anything worth sharing again. Thank you all for reading, and God bless you.

"Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding"  Proverbs 3:5