2007 Breast Cancer 3 Day

Monday, December 11, 2006

Results are in...

Praise the Lord!!

We went to see Dr. Q today to get the results of my tests. They all came back clear!! I had prepared myself just in case we received bad news, but was able to breathe an audible sigh of relief when we heard the results. Now I don't have to worry about cancer for another year (like that's realistic).

I also went to see my OB/GYN this week. He is running some bloodwork to find out if I am truly in menopause or not. I should get those results on Friday.

Thank you everyone for your continued prayers and I know many of you will rest easy tonight knowing that I am still "ok". I know we will.

Much love to everyone--
Fran

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm nuclear again!

Yesterday I went for my battery of tests. I should find out the results next week.

I had a chest xray, CATscan of chest and abdomen and a bone scan. I came home feeling poorly yesterday afternoon. My head always hurts after they inject me with the radioactive isotope for the bone scan. In fact, it still hurts a bit this morning. I still find the great irony of modern medicine comical. They have to inject me with radioactive material to determine if I'm still healthy, but at what cost?? Radioactive isotopes pumping through my veins and organs can't be good for me. What is the "preventative medicine" doing to me in the meantime???

Oh and for the record, modern medicine still hasn't found a way to make 32oz. of barium sulfate palatable. Calling it "berry smoothie" doesn't help much either. I did the big gag and heave a few times while trying to get it all down in the 45 minutes they give you to drink it. I was successful in keeping it all down, but it was touch and go there for a few minutes. Ack--berrie smoothie. My gag reflex kicks in just thinking about it!!

I'll give you the results as we know more. Please keep us in your prayers for an "all clear" verdict.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What a difference a year makes

It's amazing the difference a year makes.












The day I was diagnosed.












A year later...

Thank you Lord for healing my body. I am going into this holiday season with much happier thoughts.

Just to update everyone, I am scheduled for a chest xray, bone scan and 2 CATscans next Wednesday. I'm not sure how long it will be before I get the results, but I will certainly keep everyone posted.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One Year Later

November 2, 2005..."You have cancer." This little sentence was said to me without much emotion. I did get an "I'm sorry" out of my doc, but I think it was more for lack of something to say than really being sincere. His bedside manner lacks a lot to be desired.

I can not believe that one year has passed. First and foremost, I am so thankful to be here one year later and in good health. I have been reflecting on my cancer journey for several days now. I still find it an interesting study in human emotion that while you go through cancer everyone wants in on ALL the details, but once you're "cured" people quickly put it behind them and don't think about it again. Maybe it is a coping mechanism...I'm not one to dwell on the past, but I don't think anyone will realize that it's been a year unless they read this blog. I doubt anyone will be concerned with how I'm coping . Maybe it's not for them to be concerned...maybe it's mine alone to deal with.

As I said before, I've been reflecting on this journey and I've learned a few things about myself along the way.

1. I am much stronger in mind and body than I ever thought.

2. I am pleased that I can comfortably rest in God's plan for my life and be content there even during times of heartache.

3. I want more children. Now with my ability to bear children gone, I am realizing that I am very open to adopting (even older children). I never had issues with adopting, I just didn't have the need. Now I realize there are so many children that just want a family. It's something we're exploring.


Life post-cancer is very similar to life pre-cancer. I was never one to sweat the small stuff, but I really am not concerned with it now. It's cliche, but life is short. Go out and live it! For me it's not about big houses and fancy cars...it's about loving my friends and family and enjoying each day for we aren't promised tomorrow.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Fund Free Mammograms

Here is a link to a website that helps women get mammograms that may not be able to afford it otherwise. All you have to do is go the the website and click the link. It doesn't cost you anything, you won't be put on some mailing list, it's just a second of your time each day to help fight this disease.

Fund Free Mammograms

Thanks!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pink ribbons everywhere

If you haven't started seeing pink ribbons everywhere I'd be suprised. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I thought I would be annoyed this year seeing the pink ribbons and being reminded for a whole month that I had breast cancer, but I am actually finding it encouraging...go figure.

“1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime.”

This is a harsh statistic. If you haven't had a mammogram yet, make your appointment today. Don't make the mistake and think it can't happen to you if you're young. I was 31. Do a self exam--call and make and appointment. Why wait?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Race Day


Yesterday we participated in the Race for the Cure. It was a great day. We walked in the Family Walk which is about 1/2 mile. I would have liked to do the 3 mile walk, but little Emma's legs wouldn't last that long.

It worked out beautifully. Dad and Becky came down and walked with us. There were an estimated 26,000 people there which I think is an amazing turnout.

The opening ceremonies were a bit emotional for me, but I did well not to break down. I could have easily, but thought it wasn't the time or place. I was just thankful to be able to stand there knowing I'm healthy. It was quite sobering though because in front of us was a family with "In Memory Of" signs on their backs for a loved one that died just 6 days ago from this horrible disease. My heart just hurt for them.

There weren't as many pink survivor shirts as I imagined there would be and that was a bit sobering too. In my mind I had visions of a sea of pink survivor shirts, but it was really a sea of white participant shirts instead. I sure hope there were more survivors in the crowd than pink shirts or it will be hard to be encouraged. I wore my pink shirt with pride and saw many women doing so too.

I'm not much for big crowds so this was a stretch for me, but I'm very happy we did it. It seems a fitting end to a rough year. Can you believe that my 1 year anniversary is coming up November 2nd? Almost a year ago I heard the words "you have cancer". I still can't wrap my mind around it most days.

Thanks to everyone who donated in my name for the race. With just the few donations I received, you raised $290 for the cure. It doesn't sound like a lot, but every little bit helps in the fight. Thank you again!!

Here are a couple of pictures from race day.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Check out my George Clooney cut






Ok, so I don't wear the style quite as well as George, but it's better than bald. I didn't realize it had been 2 months since my last photo update. Wow, time is really flying by these days.

I'm feeling great and enjoying my life without cancer. The new "girls" are old news. They're just a part of me now--like they were always mine. I guess that is a good sign. I am still having a little tenderness near the incisions, but it isn't bad. My port scar actually bothers me more than anything. It feels really tight like it could split open any minute. Pretty uncomfortable, but again...who's complaining?

My hair is starting to get a curl to it. I am ever so hopeful that if it is going to go curly on me that I will have hair like my sister-in-law Janie. She has the most beau
tiful curly hair. I'm afraid I'm going to end up like little orphan Annie minus the red.


That would be tragic....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Angel Assignment

A few entries back I posted about applying to become a ChemoAngel. Well today I was assigned my chemo patient. Due to confidentiality I won't reveal any of her information, but I am thrilled to be "angeling" someone that is going through similar struggles as me. I just finished my first letter to her that I will drop in the mail Monday morning. Now I am on the hunt for those special little gifts that will brighten her day and hopefully send some of the the cancer shadows running.

Also I would like to send a collective thank you for all of those that have donated to my Race for the Cure page. You don't know what it means to me to have your support. Thank you again!

I will try to post a picture this week of my new hair growth. It is coming in dark after all and is thicker than ever! It still isn't long enough to "style", but I'm just thankful to have it up there to wash again.

No other cancer news to report--praise the Lord. Life is returning to normal and it's almost like cancer was just a really bad dream. I know as December looms closer (testing time) I will begin to feel anxious again, but for now I am living happily in ignorant bliss.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Race for the Cure


We registered last night for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It is being held here in Houston on September 30th. We are going to participate in the Family Walk that way Emma can walk with us. I am really excited about it for some reason. I guess just knowing I will be among the survivors somehow makes me proud. I can't explain that though...it's not like I did anything to "survive". Those that didn't win their battles didn't fight any less than I did. I guess I am really looking forward to seeing so many other survivors. It gives me hope.

I sent out an email yesterday about donating in my name. Again, please don't feel obligated. I just wanted to share this positive aspect of cancer with everyone. Maybe someday they will find a way to prevent breast cancer all together--hopefully in Emma's lifetime.

Below is a link to my personal fund-raising page.

My Page

If anyone would like to come and walk with us, we'd love to have you! You can register on-line here.

Come and celebrate with us! This is a great way to end this cancer journey--victorious!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Follow-up appointments

I went for my follow-up appointments this week. I saw my plastic surgeon on Tuesday and she said everything looks great. I don't go back to see her until January, so I'm now officially cleared and my life is mine again.

I saw my oncologist yesterday. It was really rather pointless, but a necessary evil I guess. He asked how I was feeling (fine). Was I having any problems (no). He did ask if my appetite had returned and as I answered yes he said (while looking at my chart), "yes, I see you've put on a few pounds". Um, hello....rude. Like I don't choke each morning when I step on the scale and see the little needle heading the wrong direction. I keep wanting to blame it on my new boobs...surely they must be the reason for my extra weight. Somehow though I don't think they weigh THAT much. Since my surgeon cleared me, I guess I'm obligated to start exercising again so now I don't have any excuses (that bites!).

I also had blood drawn and gave a urine sample to check my liver function on the Tamoxifen. He wants to see me back in December for a chest X-ray and CT scan. He said a follow-up mammogram is pointless since there isn't any breast tissue to examine. I see where he's coming from, but it still makes me nervous. I guess the CT scan will show anything they need to see. So now I don't have to think about cancer until December. Uh-huh, like that's going to happen....

Monday, July 31, 2006

My Angel Wings

Today I applied for my Angel wings. What in the world am I talking about? A wonderful opportunity to support other cancer patients. If my application is accepted I will be assigned a cancer patient. I will become their ChemoAngel. My job will be to send a card or small gift each week for the duration of cancer treatment (no longer than 18 months). I think this is a FABULOUS idea!

I'll find out within 10 days if I have been accepted and will be assigned a patient thereafter. I am so excited. Here is the link so you can check it out for yourself.

ChemoAngels

They also offer the opportunity to "angel" senior citizens that need a friend.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Will I ever escape it?

Most days I don't think about cancer. It oddly enough seems like it never really happened most days. I look in the mirror though and I'm reminded that I didn't do this to my hair--cancer did. Even that will be corrected in the months to come though. I will then just look like a normal woman and no one will be the wiser to what I've been through. I like not thinking about cancer every single day. Here is the big BUT...but, I've found that cancer has invaded even aspects of my life pre-cancer. I am going through all of our photos and putting them in albums. Each picture I pick up I don't think about the memory it represents--I think, "Did I have cancer when this was taken? How long was I sick before we found out?" I HATE this!! Yet another thing that cancer has taken from me. Yes, I can push beyond these thoughts and remember the sweet things about the picture, but will this always be the process? Cancer first--sweet memories after? It makes me angry that a little tumor can change your entire life forever.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Small victories

It's all about small victories now. Today for the first time in a long time I applied mascara to a full set of lashes! They are still a little short and stubby, but they are all there. Man I've missed my lashes!

I'm feeling great and the hair is coming in nicely. It is starting to look like it is going to be dark after all. I thought I'd include a picture of the new and "improved" me for you today.



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More birthday wishes!



Happy, Happy Birthday to the love of my life!!!

May your day be filled with joy and your heart overflow with the love that I have for you!

You are my birthday gift 365 days a year! I thank the Lord each day for bringing you into this world, and blessing me with you!

Your smile, your laugh, your love---they melt my heart. Happy Birthday my sweet Ed!

Forever yours,

Fran

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Where did all this hair come from?

Ack!! I'm a hairy beast! When did all of this hair show up??? I'm officially back in the world of razors. I had to shave my legs last week for the first time in 5 months. My eyebrows and lashes are coming in like crazy too.

I do have a nice bit of growth on my head. It almost looks like my GI Jane cut back in December. It is about 1/4 inch long and coming in sandy blonde right now. This is much lighter than it was going out. I'm curious to see if it stays this color or if it darkens as more of it comes in. I'll post a picture in a day or so.

As far as the burning question about surgery is concerned: Yep, they sure are pretty! I feel well and while I'm a bit sore it really hasn't been bad. They feel different than I anticipated. They are much softer and feel more "real" than I thought they would. I am anxious to go bra shopping now and see officially how they look. I have no idea what size I equate to now, but I'm pleased. I go back next week for a check-up. My stitches are all dissolvable and I don't have any drains (Yippee!!), so it is smooth sailing from here on out.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tomorrow's the big day

Tomorrow is the big day. I get my new "girls" at 8 a.m. While I am excited about the reconstruction, I am more excited about the fact that this is the end. Tomorrow is the last step in my cancer journey.

I have been taking Tamoxifen for about 2 weeks now and seem to be tolerating it quite well. I have had a few hot flashes, but I'm not sure if it is menopause or the medicine. I am happy to say if this is all the medicine does to me then I am VERY HAPPY to take it each day.

I will post again as soon as I feel up to it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turn 32. I've never really stressed about birthdays or getting older, and true to the cliche--I'm just happy to be here to celebrate this one this year. Each birthday that I get to celebrate from here on out will be a blessing.

This is what my sweet Ed gave me as a gift. I wanted a ring to mark this breast cancer experience (something with a pink stone). Isn't it beautiful? (This picture is a little blurry, but you get the general idea.)

I love you Ed. Thank you for everything that you do for me. Thank you for loving me the way that you do! Thank you for being my husband!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm on the schedule

We met with Dr. C today and confirmed a surgery date of June 19th. I will be exchanging these miserable expanders for two nice implants. I am so ready to have this next step completed. It apparently will be day surgery unless they feel the need to keep me overnight. I think that is a bit odd, but I guess this surgery really is so much easier than the mastectomies.

Today she decided which implants she would order for me. She is ordering Mentor silicone 550cc and 600cc implants(high profile). I'm leaving it ultimately up to her to decide what will look best in me. She is after all the trained professional. I know that implant information doesn't mean much for those that aren't experienced with implants, but for other cancer patients reading this that is interesting information. I've discovered reconstruction patients like comparing implant info. What do you have? What do you like about them? I've been advised a few times to ask for high profile implants. I wouldn't have known to do this without the new inner circle I am a member of thanks to cancer.

So a week from Monday I will get my one great bonus (or in this case two--ha ha) of having breast cancer--new perky boobs that are better looking than the set I brought into this game.

Oh and almost as an afterthought, Dr. E will be taking out my port too. Other than the maintenance visits I will have forever, I will be DONE with this cancer mess after the 19th. Can I get an Amen???

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Must Read (Thanks Sue- "Brite Hope")

I am reading a wonderful book that I think all breast cancer survivors need to read. I also recommend it for friends and family members as well. It is "After Breast Cancer:A Common-Sense Guide to Life After Treatment" by Hester Hill Schnipper. Here are a few quotes that really hit home with all the thoughts running through my head lately.

"You are not the person you were, and you are still working your way toward being the woman you will become. It takes all your physical and your emotional energy to regain a sense of trust in your body and in your place in the world."

"Being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness means the end of everything we have ever known. The world looks very different, and our place in it feels much less secure."

"Physically, we have been forced to keep pace with the treatments and with our bodies...Our hearts, our souls, however, need time to catch up."

Monday, June 05, 2006

My new cancer awareness logo

As many of you know I have hot flashes due to my chemo-induced menopause. I also just started taking Tamoxifen which has the main side effect of hot flashes. I think rather than the sweet pink awareness ribbon this will be my new breast cancer logo.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A time to grieve

Seven months have passed since I heard the words "you have cancer". I have come to realize in the last few days that REALITY is just now setting in for me. I have been "strong" throughout this ordeal, but I think strong isn't necessarily the right word. I think a touch of denial is more of an accurate description. No that isn't even right. I've said before that this has been like an out-of-body experience. I have now returned to my body and am living first person once again. Revelations of my new life and the life that is no longer are seeping into my consciousness minute by minute. It is very unsettling.

I appreciate everyone being so happy for me that it's over, but it's never really over. Ok, so I'm not being subjected to toxic waste being pumped into my veins, but at least that had a start and a finish. I will always be dealing with cancer. Will I have a recurrence? Will I get to see Emma grow up? What's that pain in my leg? Is the cancer back? Until you've lived it, you can't understand it.

I'm just now taking in all that has happened to me. It's a big, nasty pill to swallow. Don't get me wrong, I am so very thankful to be cancer-free, but I am now at a place that I can lower my guard long enough to mourn the loss of my former life, my breasts, my ability to bear children. I will look in the mirror at the road map of scars across my chest and know that every day I will be reminded of what has been stolen from me. Again, until you've lived it, you can't understand it.

So if I seem moody or tense....I am. I'm processing a life changing experience.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cancer: The Ultimate Thief

I know it's been a while since I've posted, but honestly I've been avoiding it. I have been enjoying a life without cancer and that includes talking about it. I do have some news to report though, so a post is in order.

We went to Dr. Q on Wednesday this week to discuss "maintenance". He said I won't have a scan until later in the year. He is confident that my strong regimen of chemotherapy killed any lurking cancer cells. He did however inform us that the chemo-induced menopause I have been experiencing will most likely be permanent. This was upsetting to say the least. Whether you want more children or not suddenly becomes an issue when you are told you won't be able to have anymore. I have a little bit of hope because I have read other cancer stories where cycles returned to normal, but it just took some time. If this wasn't bad enough, he also recommends that I start taking Tamoxifen. It is a drug that will help reduce my chances of recurrence. I will have to take it for 5 years. I will then be on an aromatase-inhibitor indefinitely. I suspected this would be the plan, but hearing him say it upset me. I don't want to take medicine for the rest of my life. I don't want to be an old woman with hot flashes trapped in the body of a 32 year old. I don't want my ability to bear children to be stolen from me. I've lost my hair and my breasts and now the one thing feminine that I have left is stolen from me too. It is so unfair. I'd rather be bald forever than be in menopause now.

We are still working on a date for my final reconstruction surgery. It looks like it will be toward the end of June. I'm not even excited...just ready. I'm ready to be in a place to not think about cancer for a long time.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Praise the Lord!

It's over! I'm done! I get my life back!

Yesterday I went for my final scheduled bloodwork. All my counts are good and theoretically should continue to improve. I have an appointment with Dr. Q in three weeks to discuss maintenance and a scan of some sort, but that is it. I meet with Dr. C next week to discuss finalizing my reconstruction. I am hoping to schedule it for the end of June. I'm ready to get these expanders out. The are hard as rocks making sleeping difficult. It will be nice to get the implants in and finish this process completely.

I have to go start packing. We are going camping this weekend. Step 1 of the "we have our life back" plan!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I fail to see the humor in all of this...

Just when you think you have a handle on your cancer routine, it spins out of control just to keep things interesting. As scheduled my white count dropped to .5 as of Monday's bloodwork. I took my 3 shots in the stomach and planned to come back on Tuesday for more bloodwork. Well I have been fighting nausea this round more than normal. Monday night was the worst I've felt through this entire ordeal. I was miserable by Tuesay, running a fever and felt like walking death. I went in for lab work and my count was still .5. The doctor decided to put me on two different antibiotics due to the fever and my counts not improving. I was hooked up through my port for 2 hours to take Rocephin and Levaquin. I also took a bag of Anzemet--the anti-nausea drug from heaven. Oh and two more shots in the stomach. On to Wednesday, same process as the day before--antibiotics, Anzemet and shots. Today I thought I would just have lab work, but no that would be easy. My white count in only .8 today that equals 3 more stomach shots today and I had to take the antibiotics again. To top it off that will be my routine tomorrow as well. As you can see, it has been a miserable week and it is just so frustrating. I also have to bring home shots to give myself this weekend. This will make a new record of 16 shots in the stomach in one week. I am so tired of this. My only saving grace is that I know from next week on each day will bring marked improvement with no chemo looming in the future.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Is it really almost over?

I am so ready for this cancer mess to be finished. I had my final round of chemo a week ago. I know I should be jumping for joy, but frankly I'm to darn tired to jump. This last round has left me weary in body, mind and soul. I am coming into my "bad" week when my numbers drop and then maybe there will be some light shining at the end of the tunnel after that. I will have bloodwork done for the next two weeks and then I will have a two week reprieve. I will then go back in for labs to make sure I am still improving and Dr. Q said I will probably have a scan of some sort. If all goes well he will then monitor me 3 times a year.

I'm not sure if all cancer patients have this feeling, but I have been thinking about how my life will be different in just a few weeks. I won't have to schedule my life around lab work. I won't have to hope that I feel well enough to go buy groceries. I won't have to dread the next round of chemo. I have a great sense of feeling lost without cancer. What will I do with myself each day? Don't get me wrong--I am very happy to be cancer-free. It has just consumed every moment and thought since November. It's as if I don't know how to think about anything else anymore. What did I do each day before I was diagnosed? How do you go back to a "normal" life? Do you even get to go back to that life? I am forever changed.

Now I guess I get to focus on the little victories. I get to watch my hair grow back in and stick around for a while. I get to finish my reconstruction this summer and feel whole again. I get to watch Emma slowly forget that I was ever sick. Finally she will come to a point when she stops asking, "Mommy, you don't feel good?"

I will get my life back
.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Special Thank You

I just wanted to send a special thank you to The Mom's Club. I have been a member since January 2005. Emma and I attended a weekly playgroup before I was diagnosed (which we both really miss). I haven't been involved in any activities since my diagnosis, but I'm looking forward to participating more after this last round of chemo is over.

The Mom's Club has been great support. They gave me a gift certificate for a Home Cleaning. I found that very helpful after my 4th round of chemo. I had lots of family coming in for my surgery and my house needed a good cleaning. They just recently sent me two gift cards for restaurants. We've been out to eat twice already and still have probably 2 more meals left on the cards. This has REALLY been a life saver. I rarely feel like cooking these days and being able to go out has been great. I also just received a letter from MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Mom's Club donated funds in my honor. What a wonderful group of women I have supporting me! I thank you each and every one for your continued thoughts and prayers. I look forward to seeing you all again soon and saying thank you face to face.

Thank you again,
Fran

A new record

Last week was my "bad" week. I felt ok, but my white count was low as usual. I set a new record of 14 shots in the stomach last week. Yep, 14. To add insult to injury I had to administer 8 of those myself! Can you believe it? Me putting needles into my stomach? It's true. You can do amazing things when you have to. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be physically, but the psychological aspect of sticking a needle in your body was hard. It just goes against everything we are programmed to think about needles. Thankfully this is my good week so I hopefully am done with stomach shots until the next round of chemo. Which by the way, is scheduled for Monday the 17th.

Update on hair loss--it's going! My eyebrows are almost gone and my head hair is just starting to let loose. I am hoping it won't all fall out, but who am I kidding.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

5 more weeks...and counting

This round of chemo was rough the first week, but now in my normally bad second week I'm feeling well. My white count is currently .4 which as you know by now is practically gone. I took my 2 shots in the stomach with a smile yesterday and will be going back in at noon today for 2 more. I just keep reminding myself...5 more weeks.

I've mentioned the peach fuzz growing on my head already, but I should note that my hair is growing back everywhere else too. I had to shave my legs for the first time in 4 months. I am happy to have hair on my head again, but I certainly haven't missed shaving! Oh and speaking of new hair growth, my eyebrows have so many new hairs coming in that they are pushing out the old long ones. I managed to hold onto my eyebrows through 4 rounds of chemo and now new hair is going to be their demise! Go figure...Oh well--I am assuming still that this round of chemo will destroy my new peach fuzz-- so what if my eyebrows go too.

While being thrilled that chemo is almost over I have to admit that I am a bit sad at the thought of not seeing some of my nurses. They become such a part of your everyday (literally) that it will seem odd to not see them any more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chemo # 5

I had round #5 of chemo on Monday. It is now day 3 and I am doing well. I am drained as usual, but feeling good otherwise. Nausea wasn't much of an issue this time around thankfully. My sense of taste is starting to fade already, but thankfully that recovers quickly.

I have a nice layer of peach fuzz hair coming in. It appears to be dark, but I'm not sure if it is darker than normal. I am happy to see it growing so quickly, but it should start falling out by the middle of next week from this round of chemo. Hopefully since I only have one round of chemo left my hair will recover quickly too.

My plastic surgeon's office called today with a strange request. The secretary asked if I would be willing to talk with a patient getting ready to have a double mastectomy. I said I would, but thought it odd since I am not finished with my reconstruction yet. I can't really give an opinion of Dr. C's work other than what has been done so far. I'm not sure if they want me to talk about reconstruction or the mastectomy process, but I said give the woman my phone number and I'd talk to her if she calls. We'll see if my phone rings.

I'm due back for lab work on Friday. My numbers should still be up--they won't crash until this weekend sometime. I just keep reminding myself 5 more weeks and this will be behind us. I'm not sure when my final reconstruction will take place, but that seems so simple compared to the rest of this process.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Let the Games Begin

Yesterday I had two appointments. I went to see Dr. C for an expansion, but she decided to wait 2 more weeks to let more healing take place. I am just about finished expanding. I will probably have one more and be happy at that size.

I then went to have labs drawn and iron infused. Dr. Q met with me and said it is time to move forward, so I am scheduled to start chemo again Monday morning. Let the games begin...uneasy stomach, hair loss (so long peach fuzz) and the general feeling of YUCK!

I am sad to say that 2 of my 3 favorite nurses are no longer at the infusion center. I am really saddened by this. You come to trust and really enjoy good nurses and it gives me a general sense of unease to have new ones coming in. They don't know my story...my likes, dislikes, moods. I know there may be great nurses coming in behind them, but sadly I already find myself judging that I won't like them as well. Isn't that strange how we become "dependent" on nurses that we like? So my wish now is that MaryAnn will stick with me through the next two chemo treatments. I just love her. She takes such good care of me and you can tell she really loves her cancer patients. She makes the process easier somehow. Thank you MaryAnn!!! I am trying to think of something nice to put together for her as a parting gift at my final chemo. Any ideas would be helpful.

So I now have 6 weeks and counting until I am done with this mess. I still have surgery at some point this summer to remove my expanders and put in the implants, but that will be the final step.

I'm off to start eating everything that tastes good before my senses are lost next week. Blueberry pancakes sound good this morning I think...


Oh and today's Daily Verse...great as always!

“ Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ” (James 1:12)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I'm not so sure it's "me"

I wore my wig to church this morning. The jury is still out on whether I like it. I don't know if it is the cut, color or just that it isn't MY hair that bothers me. I still feel that I am somehow denying my situation by wearing it. It is definitely red which therefore draws attention to it. Those that know me know that I am not an attention seeker, so this is uncomfortable for me. I did have one lady come up and say my hair was a beautiful color, but that wasn't enough to make me sign off on wearing it full-time. We'll see I guess.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Guess what I did?

Well I did it...I bought a wig. I didn't think I would, but here is the thought process.

When I was first diagnosed and knew that my hair would be lost to chemo, I didn't want a wig. I know many cancer patients opt to wear one from the very beginning, but for me wearing a wig meant I was somehow denying I was sick. I have worn headcoverings throughout treatment thus I "look" like a cancer patient. In the last few days it has occurred to me that even though I have 2 chemo treatments left for systemic reasons, I am cancer free due to surgery. I don't want to look like a cancer patient any longer, but my hair growing back is still a long way off. I do have a little peach fuzz coming in, but it will fall victim to chemo drugs shortly. I know I may not wear my wig all of the time, but at least I have that option now. I ordered it from the American Cancer Society's catalog. It seems to do well enough although not having hair for 4 months makes having hair suddenly awkward. It seems big and out there, but it is actually much less hair than I had before chemo claimed it. It is supposed to be light reddish brown, but it is more red than brown. I like it though and Ed said I look beautiful as a redhead so I'm going with it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Introducing our newest family member

Since my baby-making days are over (sadly), we decided to get a new puppy. Granted puppies and babies have many similarities, but they are not the same. I would much prefer a new baby, but that just isn't in our cards. [If you know someone that would like to give us a baby that would be great, thanks.] Ok, back to the puppy...we decided poor Roscoe (our current dog) is just getting to old (11) to deal with Emma. He is tolerant of her, but let's face it there's no love there. The new puppy has been a nice distraction for her. While Roscoe isn't thrilled about having her around just yet, I think you can see the relief on his face already from Emma's constant attention. Here is a photo of our new puppy. Her name is Sadie. She is about 4 months old and a total sweetheart.












Now I just have to figure out how to housebreak a dog and potty train a 2 year old at the same time!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just a reminder for all the women I love

Warning: Possible guilt may follow, but read it anyway!

You all know that you should be checking yourself each month for lumps. If you didn't do it before I was diagnosed I understand. If you still aren't doing it...SHAME ON YOU! Hello, anybody home up there? Breast cancer is serious business and if caught early can be cured!

I know we don't always remember to check. I wasn't intentionally checking when I found my lump, but here is something to help. I came across a website through another blog that will email you a monthly reminder to "Check Your Boobies". Now I know that this sort of thing doesn't work for everyone, but if even one woman uses this and remembers to do a self exam then it is worth mentioning.

http://www.checkyourboobies.org/index.html

I love you all and don't want you to go through this experience with cancer.

CHECK YOUR BOOBIES!




Thursday, March 09, 2006

PRAISE THE LORD!!!

Dr. E just called me with WONDERFUL news! After sitting down with the pathologist it has been determined that my margins were clear after all. The chemotherapy shrunk my tumor down to 4mm and all the cancer should be contained in the mastectomy tissue. I'm not sure where the error in information occurred and at this point I'm not going to dwell on it. I am just so pleased that it appears I truly am cancer free! I will not need radiation according to Dr. E., but I will have the remaining chemo treatments for systemic purposes.

I just can't be happier. Praise the Lord that He is good all the time. My sweet friend Bridget reminded me of that in her comment on yesterday's post. I am so thankful to have such a wonderful group of Christian women surrounding me--some of which I have never even met in person.

Thank you to EVERYONE for lifting me and my family up in prayer. The Lord is answering them each and every moment. He loves us and hears us when we cry out to Him. Isn't He amazing?

I'll update as I know more.

In HIS precious hands,
Fran

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Two Steps Forward = Two Steps Back

Yesterday we had several doctor appointments. We met with my surgeon, Dr E., to get my pathology reports. He was rather vague though and we didn't really come away feeling like we knew anything. I knew Dr. Q. would give us a full explanation though so I wasn't worried.

We then met with Dr. C for another expansion session and she also removed my remaining two drains. For the record, drain removal is just one step shy of torture! Oh my goodness, I couldn't believe how much it hurt. I think it was the worst part of this process. Thankfully it only hurt when she pulled them out, but after about five minutes I couldn't even tell she had done it. I am very happy to be free of the drains. They were quite annoying and very uncomfortable. I go back in next Tuesday for another expansion session. Dr. C is pleased with the results so far and I am filling out nicely. At this point when I'm dressed you can't tell that I ever had surgery. I still look pretty mangled underneath my clothes, but that is healing nicely too.

We then went to Dr. Q's office so I could have lab work and my iron infusion. I also received a Procrit shot in the stomach. Man I sure haven't missed those. After that was all finished we met with Dr. Q for the new attack plan. I was prepared to hear that I was going to have to take the remaining 2 chemo sessions for good measure, but that wasn't what came out of his mouth.

My pathology shows that cancer cells were found very close to the surgical margins. When they remove cancerous tissue they also remove good tissue around it. The good tissue is called your margins. Well in my case since all the tissue was removed my margins go all the way to my skin. What this means is that cancer cells were found close to the skin in my breast which was a bit of a shock for all parties involved. My surgeon has requested the pathologist do a deeper study of the tissue to see what exactly we are dealing with. So basically I went in yesterday believing I was cancer free to now being practically back to square one. I have cancer in my breast still (in theory) so we have to attack it. I will definitely have more chemo and now they are even discussing radiation for localized treatment. Since there is no longer a tumor to focus on we are literally trying to kill the proverbial needle in a haystack. Needless to say I am devastated. I totally had not prepared myself to hear this. I am still trying to wrap my mind around it this morning. We are now waiting for the new pathology to determine our next move. As soon as we know, you'll know. Until then please pray that we can kill these cells and that we can get our lives back to normal. I have felt so healthy the last few weeks not having had chemo now for a month. It is so hard to know that I have to go back into the pool of chemical waste and swim around for a while and come out feeling bad all the while "hoping" that we are killing this damn cancer.


Again I have to say how appropriate the daily verse is today. The Lord always shows Himself and reminds me to keep my faith in Him. There is a greater purpose for all of this. I may not see it now, but He knows why I am going through this valley.

“ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Friday, March 03, 2006

We Wanna Pump....You Up!



Ok, so we aren't pumping up my muscles but we might as well be.

I went in for my first "expansion" yesterday. Dr. C found the port on the expanders using a small magnet and then made a mark with her pen. She then numbed the area with a lidocane injection. I didn't feel this though because there isn't much sensation left in the breast tissue due to nerve damage from the mastectomies (this is normal by the way). Dr. C then inserted another needle into the port and filled the expanders with 100cc of saline on each side. I am a little more "filled out" but still have a few more expansions to do before I look normal again. The procedure didn't hurt, but the pressure on my chest muscles after she was finished was uncomfortable. It felt like I had a serious chest workout at the gym--just a lot of muscle soreness. I still have 2 drains coming out of me, but those should come out soon. They are mostly annoying to work around and slightly uncomfortable since they pull on the few stiches that hold them in place. I'm not looking forward to the actual removal since that is rather unpleasant, but will be happy to be free of them.

I am scheduled to go back in on Tuesday for several appointments. I have a meeting with my surgeon to hopefully get my pathology reports. I am also scheduled to have another expansion and hopefully get my remaining two drains removed. I then will go over to Dr. Q's office to have lab work done and another infusion of iron. I may or may not find out about remaining chemo treatments, but I will post when I know more.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'm Home!

Surgery is over and I'm cancer free! I went in for surgery on Tuesday and came home from the hospital Thursday afternoon. Here are a few of the high points.

Surgery took approximately 7 hours. Dr. Etter performed the mastectomy on each side and then Dr. Cash began the reconstruction process. She wasn't able to put in the implants so she put in expanders instead. She didn't feel like she would get a good result with implants right away. I am scheduled to go back in to her office on Monday to begin the expansion process. She will also remove some of the drains that I have coming out of me--4 total.

I am not in much pain. I have some good medication to keep me comfortable, but it really hasn't been as bad as I anticipated. My chest looks like a train wreck right now, but I know that will get better.

My sentinal node came back clear during surgery and we should get the final pathology later this week. This basically means the cancer didn't leave my breast tissue. Yippee! We should be able to finish the chemo and be finished with this cancer business.

All in all, I am happy to be cancer free and almost done with this journey. I won't get my new set of "girls" until this summer, but hopefully the ugly cancer business will be done in just a few short weeks.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The final countdown

Today I went for a final visit to the plastic surgeon, Dr. C. She thinks that she may be able to go ahead and put in my implants at the time of surgery instead of the expanders. This means that I will come out of surgery with my final new set and won't have to go back in for more surgery. She won't know for sure until she gets in there to start working, but we are hopeful it will work out.

I also had pre-op admission stuff today as well as some pre-op tests: bloodwork, chest x-ray, and EKG. I am scheduled to go in Monday so they can inject my breast with some radioactive material for the sentinal node biopsy. It will be injected around my nipple (Yikes!) and then will drain into the sentinal node. At the time of surgery this node will be removed and biopsied to see if cancer cells have moved out of the breast via my lymph nodes.

Tuesday is the big day. I am ready. Surgery is always a scary prospect and I know the recovery will be tough. The implants are placed under the chest muscles which makes for an uncomfortable recovery. I hope that it is similar to my c-section. Everyone said how painful it would be, but I thought it was a piece of cake. I know I will have good pain medication, so it shouldn't be that bad. I just hate being doped up since it makes me sleep for hours on end.

I'll update again Monday after the injection(s). Say a little prayer that this procedure isn't as bad as is sounds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

They're both coming off!

After speaking with the plastic surgeon, we have decided to go ahead and perform a double mastectomy. This is what I wanted from the very beginning, but all the other doctors have been reluctant to discuss it. I think part of it may be that the doctors have been men. The plastic surgeon I'm seeing is a woman. I think it makes a big difference. She knows what breasts mean to a woman, but she also can understand the worry that comes with keeping one breast and removing the other. Will the cancer come back in the remaining breast??? I don't think the male doctors can fully comprehend the worry of wearing around a breast that may cause you problems later. They see removing both breasts as "aggressive". Yes, it is aggressive, but I think the right choice.

We still don't have a surgery date set. The original date was cancelled due to a schedule conflict between the surgeon and plastic surgeon. I will post the new date as soon and we know more.

I am feeling good this week. My chemo is on hold until after surgery so I am looking forward to the reprieve of harsh chemicals for a little while. Surgery should be in the next week or so, but I will enjoy feeling normal as long as possible. I still have to go in for lab work and my iron infusion, but that is all I will be doing until surgery.


Update: We now have a surgery date, Tuesday the 21st.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Verdict is in...

To get everyone caught up:

I had chemo #4 last Tuesday. It has been business as usual. I had labs yesterday and my counts are down, so I took my stomach shots and go back in today for more.

We met yesterday with the surgeon, Dr. E. He is recommending a mastectomy. We have scheduled it for next Friday, the 17th. We will be meeting with the plastic surgeon next Wednesday to discuss reconstruction options. It's a little unsettling that I don't know how my reconstruction will go until a few days before the surgery. I have to go the next week knowing they are taking part of me off, but I don't know what I will get back in return. I'm happy that we have a date set, but I'm just ready to get this entire mess over with. I'm tired of being bald, feeling like death every couple of weeks, and living my life around lab work. I feel deeply for those that endure this battle for years. I'm TIRED...tired in mind, body and spirit. My battle will hopefully be won in a few months time. I am so thankful for that.

I'm off to take another pill...I'll post more later.


Oh, and in light of my pending new boob(s), here is a cartoon that made it's way to my mailbox recently.

Update: My plastic surgery appointment has been rescheduled for this Thursday, so we'll have a better idea of the plan then.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not enough spinach in my diet apparently

I had labs today and wasn't anticipating anything different, but just when you think you have a handle on chemo it throws you for a loop. It isn't a big loop mind you, but it is yet one more thing on my to do list. As you may remember my hemoglobin was low last week. I took my normal 2 shots plus a third (Procrit) to help boost my red blood cells. I also started taking iron supplements. Today's bloodwork revealed that my hemoglobin is still low so they want to start supplementing me with IV iron once a week. I didn't have time to sit for it today, so I will be going back in tomorrow for the hour long infusion. It isn't really a big deal just an inconvenience. My already hour long lab appointment twice a week will be extended on one of those days for this infusion. I can only imagine what IV iron will do to my system. The supplements haven't bothered me thankfully, but I doubt I'll be so lucky with infused iron. Wish me luck!

My next round of chemo is on Tuesday. It will be round 4 of 6. I am happy to be coming into the second half of these treatments. The first 3 flew by quickly, but for some reason the thought of 3 more seems like an eternity. I am hoping the next 3 go as smoothly as the last round.

We still don't have any information about the ultrasound, but I'm not worried about it. Dr. Q has a plan and I trust him. I mean really we know it is practically gone and that surgery is somewhere in the future--what more can he say. He'll fill us in when he's ready. Until then we just take it day by day and try to enjoy living life on my good days. I'm sick of thinking about cancer, talking about cancer and trying to convince everyone I feel fine. I guess people want me to be moping around looking pale and tragic, so I'm sorry to disappoint them. I feel fine--please BELIEVE me.

I'm off to do some laundry. I'll post more tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Elmer Fudd Rides Again

I realized the other day that I haven't yet posted a photo of me BALD. I have "the haircut" on here, but a buzz-cut and bald look very different. I donned my new breast cancer awareness shirt (thank you Robin!) and posed for a quick photo. I admit the buzz-cut had me looking very Sinead O'Connor, but come on, this is very Elmer Fudd!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Still no news

No ultrasound results yet...you'll know when we know.

I had labs Monday, but surprisingly my numbers hadn't tanked yet. A reprieve from the stomach shots was nice. Tuesday I began to run a fever. This seems to be my pattern as my count falls lower. I had labs yesterday and my white count was .9, but my hemoglobin was really low which is a first. What do they do to fix that you ask? What else--stick me in the gut with one more shot. Yep, I took three yesterday and will be heading back in for more today. Thankfully they really have become routine and aren't a big deal anymore. I also have to start taking an iron supplement to help boost my hemoglobin. They warned me that it will make me constipated. Of course it will--because being bald and a pin cushion isn't bad enough! It just gets better and better.

I'm feeling well considering I have no immune system and hardly any red blood cells. I have one mouth sore that showed up two days ago, but it isn't giving me much grief thankfully. Sleep is still a labored endeavor. The chemo makes my mind race so falling asleep has been difficult. I have a prescription for Lunesta, but I don't care for it. I didn't feel much difference the few times I've used it. When I really need to sleep I've been taking one of my nausea meds that knocks me out, so I'm managing. It's okay though because we're half way there--3 chemos down, 3 to go.

Hope you all have a great weekend!


P.S. I just read the daily verse on my blog today. It's always inspiring to me that you hear from Him just when you need it if you'll only listen.

“ Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. ” (James 1:2-3)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Same story...different day

I know many of you think that since I haven't posted lately I must not be feeling well. Not so--I just don't have anything interesting to say. This last round of chemo has been a fairly easy one. My nausea medications are doing their jobs and I am feeling well. I am getting ready to go into the low white count phase which will make me tired, but otherwise I will feel good. I have lab work tomorrow and will be low so I'll have my stomach shots as usual. They are really quite routine now and it is strange what becomes "normal" when you have cancer. I should have my numbers back up by Wednesday.

We are still waiting for the ultrasound results. Dr. Q said my mammogram came back normal. Don't get excited just yet--if you remember my initial mammogram was "normal" too. Apparently my cancer doesn't show up well except via ultrasound. We hopefully will have those results soon. We know the chemo is doing it's job as you can't feel my tumor any longer. Now we are just trying to determine when surgery will be scheduled. I will meet with the surgeon as well as plastic surgeon soon to discuss "the plan".

This week will also be great because my dear sweet Robin will be arriving from Virginia on Wednesday! We haven't seen each other since June 2001! Oh how I've missed her and can't wait to spend a few days together. I can't believe so much time has passed since we've seen one another, but it will be like we were just together yesterday. We have always had that kind of friendship and I love her for it.

Thanks for all the continued love and support. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Half Way Point

Today I went in for my 3rd round of chemo. It was business as usual with nothing new to report. I am feeling good right now which is a pleasant surprise. I was already feeling sick by this time the last round. I know it will be short lived though and I should be feeling bad by morning if not some time in the middle of the night.

I had a mammogram and ultrasound done yesterday, but results are still pending of course. I'm not sure when we will get them, but Dr. Q's office is good about staying on top of things and keeping us informed. I'll report more when I know it.

On a more thought provoking note, I heard a sermon on the radio today that really put into words the way I feel about my situation. So many people say I'm brave or that they don't know how I do this day after day. As many of you know my faith is strong and I believe the Lord doesn't make mistakes and that He has a plan for my life. The description today was that we are put on the earth to do God's work. Living our life is our job for God--living it reflecting His image to the world by our actions and beliefs. We all have PURPOSE in this life--to minister to the lost in what ever means we are capable. So many people believe that means you have to walk up and "sell" Jesus to the unsaved, but it doesn't have to be that direct. We all minister in different ways and some of them can be quite subtle. I believe my cancer is part of my purpose. I have to walk through this experience reflecting my faith in the Lord so that others can see it and believe and hopefully that belief will lead to salvation. When you are doing the Lord's work it isn't hard to "be brave" or "be strong". When you are functioning inside His purpose you can tolerate so much more because you are living for something bigger than yourself. I admit I am human and do have my bad days. I don't want other cancer patients reading this believing I am some superhero or that even having faith takes all the pain away. I also don't want anyone to feel that they are somehow falling short because they aren't coping as well. Cancer is HARD, but knowing that the Lord has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11) makes CANCER an easier cross to bear. I am hopefully ministering to someone out there whether it be family or an unknown reader. If someone is touched and grows closer to the Lord because of my situation then it all hasn't been in vain. I don't know if I did the sermon justice in that description, but that is what I took away from it.

Here's a link to the sermon if you're interested. Just click on it.
http://www.tonyevans.org/radiotv/radio.cfm
If you are reading this today (Tuesday) click on Today's Alternative to listen to the broadcast. If you are listening any time after today it will be in the archives for January 10, but unfortunately you won't be able to hear the entire sermon. I really enjoy Tony Evans' sermons. I always find them inspirational and sometimes convicting. I recommend you look up when he airs on the radio in your area and listen.

I go back to disconnect tomorrow morning from my chemo pump. I'm winding down for the night, but I will update again tomorrow. My love to everyone!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Business as usual

Yesterday I had lab work as usual and it came back normal. This is my "good week" where I feel good and my body is getting back to normal. All this in time to do it all over again next week. Chemo is scheduled for Tuesday the 10th. This will be round 3 of 6 so I'm half way there!

We met with Dr. Q also and he is very confident that the chemo is doing it's job. We will be setting up a mammogram and ultrasound to review the tumor size. I will complete this next round of chemo and then we will meet with the surgeon to discuss whether it's time to schedule surgery. At this point when it happens is irrelevant to me. I'm just ready to get on with it and have this cancer business behind me. Well actually I guess it will never be behind me as I will always be on the look-out for new cancer in my body, but at least I won't have this chemo mess to deal with and all the doctor's appointments once this cancer is destroyed.

On a brighter note we are getting ready to buy a new camper. Russ and Holly bought our pop-up while they were here in December, so we will be upgrading to a trailer. The pop-up was nice, but we are ready for the convenience of pull up and park camping. Not having the hassle of putting up the camper and unloading and setting up everything will be nice. I think we will be able to accomplish our goal of camping once a month having a self-contained trailer. You can go rain or shine and on the spur of the moment much easier. We're excited and are ready to go camping again! Our trip to the Tetons in August was our last outing and that's just to long!

I'm back to the hospital on Friday for more lab work, but results should be the same. Hope you all have a great weekend!


Edited to add that the mouth sores are healed and thankfully the insomnia has passed. I'm still not sleeping well however so Dr. Q gave me a prescription for Lunesta which is a light sleeping pill. I haven't tried it yet, but hopefully it won't make me a zombie.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Window of My Mind

I tend to think of myself as a bit of a loner, but not necessarily by choice. I think it is more a product of my circumstances as a child with facial disfigurement. I was the kid that played by myself on the playground, was picked last for kickball teams (well really you aren't picked...that team is stuck with you when you're the last one), and as a teen was the girl that all the guys "just wanted to be friends with". That sort of experience sets a person up to rely on themselves and not get to emotionally invested in people. I don't say all of that to summon sad feelings, guilt, or even pity, it's just how it is. Everyone has their own set of baggage they haul around through life--that just happens to be mine. I set this stage to go on to say that I find for the most part I have overcome my baggage and live my life loving and trusting my family and friends. It is however still a concentrated effort/choice to put myself out there and expose myself to a possible emotionally hurtful experience. I came to the realization today though that as I choose to put myself out there emotionally and rely on others I am often disappointed which sends me back into myself wondering why I bothered in the first place. I don't think my expectations are unrealistic, yet I find myself shaking my head asking "Is what I'm asking that hard to do?". I won't recount the why or who of this scenario to protect the not so innocent, but as unhealthy as it may be I'm just going to rely on me (and my dear sweet Ed) from now on and keep my emotional wounds to a minimum. I am a private person by nature and to put this out into the universe isn't something I would normally do, but somehow it seems appropriate today. Please don't pick my brain for details as I won't reveal them just consider this a glance through the window of my mind and feel like you might know me a little better for having read this...or maybe you just realized you don't know me at all.