Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ouch Again....

Thought I was doing so well today. Ran errands. Went with Mom to pick up paint. Shouldn't have picked up the paint. Or the watermelon. Mom noticed that I was leaking. Soaked clear through and down my top. Dr. Droesch told me to pull the incision closed with butterfly bandages. And lay (lie??) down and take it easy. Easier said than done!

I just watched "What About Bob?" and I feel like "Bob" - I'm hounding Dr. Droesch whose wife just had a baby and he's supposed to be out on family leave......

Trying On Wigs - Chris says I'm a "habitual hair tucker"

Oncologist appointment

Today I finally got my oncology appointment. Max met me at the Cancer Center. Dr. Chenal reiterated that I would need Chemo. He's very, very, VERY thorough in his explanations. He wanted to know if I was interested in participating in a study - to find out if cancers like mine (HER2 negative) really need treatment with a particular common medication. That medication (they're all TOXIC) can cause heart problems and allergic reactions. I'm not sure that I want to participate in the study. It takes extra weeks to complete since the treatments are 3 weeks apart instead of 2. There would also be extra exams/tests for the next 5 years. And there's a possibility that my insurance wouldn't cover the chemo since the drug combination is considered experimental.

As soon as I tell him if I want to participate in the study I will start the chemotherapy. Probably by the end of next week. I need to get a blood test done tomorrow. He has also requested a CT scan for me which will be on Tuesday (June 3rd, 2pm) in Richland. Monday I need to pick up a couple of bottles of gunk to drink before my test. If the CT scan shows possibilities of cancer elsewhere, they will do a PET scan on me and if that's positive, they would do a biopsy. I'm already feeling beat up. I know that I haven't even begun this chemo ordeal, but I'd like to get off the cancer treatment merry-go-round already.

I went after work to Just Hair with Tracy, Sherry, Teresa and my mom where we tried on wigs. It was scary at first, but then I got the hang of it! I almost got one similar to my current hairstyle. The consensus was "too matronly," So I ordered one that is longer on top and more fashionable. It's pretty cute. Tomorrow I will post the photos.

P.S. Dr. Chenal told me first thing when I came in that he had had my appointment rescheduled from last Wednesday (post surgery) because when he got the call from the hospital that I was on my way, he didn't think that I'd be coherent enough to understand everything he had to tell me. Sigh. So much for my meticulous planning......

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Our Kitty Skye looks pretty awkward giving herself a bath. I'm also feeling awkward - the port feels weird under my skin. I currently have 5 incisions in my chest, making sleeping on my side (preferred method of sleep) almost impossible. Let's see... which side is least uncomfortable? The infection has calmed down on my left side so that helps! I have 6 down pillows and a new squishy rolled one - that Carol Hansen gave me. I form them all into a nice little nest & get some rest. I seem to need a lot lately.

False Advertising

Had a talk today with Teresa! She told me that she had washed her kitchen floor the same day that she had her port put in. And that she had been awake while they inserted it. I tried to be so lucky. Heather and Mom were there for me yesterday (Wednesday.) Surgery to put in my port was scheduled for 7:30am. I told the doctors that I had a 9:15 appointment and so they couldn't put me completely under. Whatever. I got home and ended up sleeping all day and all night. That's what the "light" anesthesia did for me!

I tried to make my 9:15 appointment. I made special arrangements to have the surgery done earlier so that I could make it on time. I struggled to come out of the anesthesia enough to tell the nurses that I was "wonderful". They had to get x-rays to make sure that the port was in place and that they hadn't punctured my lungs, etc. I got dressed and told them that I HAD to leave. After the report came in, Mom and Heather helped me out to the car. Even then, we were 15 minutes late to Dr. Chenal's (oncologist-cancer doc). I began throwing up on my way in, thanks to the anesthesia. The front desk had been called and told we would be late, but even at that, we were told that we'd have to reschedule my appointment. They said that they didn't have time for me.

We weren't happy about this, so they had a nurse come out. She told Mom that there were already patients in all the rooms and they had a procedure that had to be done. "And besides, we're missing some of the paperwork," she announced. "What is missing?" "The pathology report." Well! Why didn't they call and change the appointment themselves if that's what the real issue was?

So, I get to go to Dr. Chenal's tomorrow (Friday) at 10:30. I'll have to take time off from work. I hope that they have all the paperwork by then.

I have to say that they are so great at work (Kamiakin High School's Life Skills class). Everyone is positive and understanding. We laugh a lot. We cry sometimes. I'm really, really lucky to get to work with such a wonderful bunch of people!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thank You!

Mom and Dad and Max worked on the spare room Saturday - patching up holes in the wall. I am so glad it is getting done, but feel badly that Mom and Dad are spending all their time WORKING!

I'm wondering if they will put the mediport in me Wednesday if this infection doesn't go away soon. Ouch Ouch Ouch.

Just finished writing some Thank you notes.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Splish, Splash, Slosh....

Dr. Droesch told me that fluid would fill in the area where he removed the tumor. It must have. Any shaking around and I can hear the sloshing! It sounds like a water balloon :)

OUCH, ICK.......

So, I've finally gotten my first setback. I KNEW this great recovery was too good to be true! I had a hard time sleeping Thursday night - I was hurting. I attributed it to the cat stepping on me - on my incision - and I didn't mention it to Dr. Droesch when he called the next day. He told me that the panel at the cancer group agreed with him to not take out any additional lymph nodes, but to proceed with the chemo. I told him that I was doing GREAT. An hour later I took a late shower and discovered that my uncomfortable-ness was due to an infection at the incision site. It was oozing. ICK!

I tried calling the doctor's office back, but they aren't in on Fridays. I left a message. I called my family physician, hoping that he would just prescribe an antibiotic over the phone! Nope. I had to go in for an office visit. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Mom drove me in to Richland and we waited until they could work me in. After getting a culture, Dr. Isaacson prescribed Augmentin for me. Hope it heals soon......

Insurance statements have begun to arrive. Doctors, surgery.... It feels so great to see "Patient responsibility - $0.00" I am so fortunate to have insurance (through Kennewick School District) I applied for the most expensive out-of-pocket option because I know our family has lots of special needs (my Type I diabetes, the kids' ADD & ADHD, emergency room visits, etc.) I only bring home $150 each month after they subtract the insurance premium, but that's all I work for - the insurance.

I stopped by the school's benefits office on the Friday before my surgery. Paulene, who knows the program inside and out, had left early. I asked the other office lady what kind of coverage I had for my cancer. She asked me point blank if I had purchased Cancer Insurance. What?!! "No!" She tried looking me up in her computer and ended up telling me that I should check back on Monday (surgery was Monday morning.) Needless to say, I drove home in a state of shock, considering my options......

I called the insurance company myself. Should have done this to begin with. After checking me on their computers, they told me that the surgery, chemo, radiation - everything - would be covered at 100%. I cried in relief! What a sense of peace that was and IS!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Doctor's Checkup and Stuff

Teresa and Donna from work brought us dinner today! Pizza! Rootbeer floats! YUM! THANK YOU!

Mom took me to see Dr. Droesch today. He answered my questions and scheduled a time next week to have a mediport put in my chest.

He said that the tumor was 2.5 cm - bigger than he had anticipated. He took out an additional centimeter all around the tumor, so there is a "hole" - not visible, but definitely missing when you feel there. He told me that my body would fill this in with fluid.

He also said that all 3 of the lymph nodes ended up having cancer in them. He didn't recommend going back in to take out the rest of the nodes as that can create other problems such as damaged nerves and lymphodema (sp?) where your arm can swell up. He assured me that the chemo and radiation would be tailored to get rid of any leftover cancer - were there to be any. He told me that if I were to get large lymph nodes in the future - cancer - he would definitely remove them. There is a group of cancer specialists who meet at Kadlec on Thursdays. He is going to present my case to them tomorrow and get any additional feedback that they recommend.

I forgot that I also have an appointment with Dr. Chenal (oncologist) the morning that he will be doing the mediport. I'm hoping to be able to juggle both appointments. I also got a note from him to go back to work next Tuesday, after Memorial Day. I'll have to take off the next day, but I need to get at least 6 more days of work in this school year so that I have enough hours for next Fall's family medical leave to kick in (insuring my job and benefits).

Dr. Droesch answered another question of mine: I joined Weight Watchers in February and lost about 20 lbs. I asked him if the lost weight could have resulted in my being able to feel the lump where before the extra weight had hidden it. He said that, "Yes, it was definitely possible." So, I consider myself blessed that my Heather talked me in to joining! Because of the lost weight, I was months ahead in discovering that lump!

Mom and Dad being here with us is another great blessing! They've been catching us up on lots of things that have gone woefully offtrack the last several months: fixing the kids' bikes, adding curtains to Taija's closet, replacing my broom, utensil divider, electrical outlets, etc. Mom gently pointed out that our washing machine was not able to spin completely. She didn't trust my makeshift fixit (reset the machine to spin, stick a pencil in the sensor and then help out by pushing the wash basket around until it picked up speed.) So, we broke down and had a new washer installed today - a front loading one. Nice!

She also mentioned that one of our dear old cats was walking into things and must be blind. Yes, the old gal had also lost 4 lbs recently and looked pretty sad. It didn't help that she also had FIV (cat AIDS) for many years now. An appointment was made and Mom accompanied me to the vet where we had her put down today. We cried. Stephen dug a hole and when I returned from my doctor's appointment, the kids and I gathered around and buried her. Explaining the whole process to Kyle was actually difficult: "She was very sick..." As I spoke, I realized that could describe ME! So, what's the difference? Medicine can make me well?
Kyle noted that now kitty would have a new friend up in Heaven: Annie Cat! (Whom we had to have put down about 7 years ago.) Trust a child.....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pretty Flowers

Flowers from the folks where Max works. Notice the orange butterfly! It really looks like it's just floating there...

Flowers from the lifeskills classroom where I work at Kamiakin High School. The kids and staff wrote a card to me, too. I hope my Johnny is behaving himself!!!

My in-laws (definitely NOT outlaws) sent me this pretty bouquet in a green glass pitcher. So bright and cheery! (Those are lemon and lime slices mixed in with the daisies!!!

My twin cousins Lucinda
and Lucille sent these
lillies and spring flowers!

Now you know how blessed I am. I also have a wall in my room that is getting covered with sweet cards of encouragement. I love and cherish each one. THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Family

Everyone in my family has reacted to this cancer differently. Heather has been very sensitive and is worried that I might not be around for her wedding day (still in the planning stages - she needs to find a groom first.) When Stephen found out, his eyes got large and he thought out loud: "If you died, that would mean that I can play X-Box all day long!" Jacob has been nonchalant about it, but he couldn't drive home from driver's ed the day I had surgery and he'd had to visit the school counselor that day. Taija is ever concerned and eager to help out. Kyle acted out but when I gave him some words (the Amen technique) he admitted that he was worried and wondered if I would lose my hair like Sister Dickman did when she had cancer and chemotherapy. (Pretty amazing, considering that he's developmentally delayed and Lois' cancer was about 3 years ago.) My hubby, Max, thanked me the day after my announcement for having such a good attitude. Besides that bad Friday, I've only cried once or twice for a few minutes. I've been buoyed up by everyone's prayers and well wishes! Thank you everyone for supporting me!

Four days Post Op

Again I can't sleep. It's after 3am - Friday. I have a rash on my arms, back and chest. I suspect it's the one oxycodone that I took yesterday. I just took some benadryl to see if that helps out. I haven't had to take pain killers much - maybe some ibuprofen once a day for the irritation. What a welcome surprise! I almost feel guilty for staying home from work.

The red rash isn't the only color I'm sporting. My surgified breast is now yellow, too. (Not to mistake it for the amazing shade of orange on my left arm with which the surgical unit dosed me. It kinda looked like a tan-in-the-bottle-gone-wrong until I finally got a shower this morning.)

I have three incisions on my left side. A 2" one under my arm pit where Dr. Droesch checked the sentinel nodes. A 1.25" incision around my nipple where he took out the tumor and a small incision on the breast where he did the original biopsy. All of these are sealed shut - with GLUE. No stitches visible anywhere. He said that the smaller incision is to remove the area where he had done the biopsy (aka Rosie-the-Riveter taking 4 core samples of the lump on the first day he examined me.) Cancer cells like to show up right around the area where the original cancer was removed, hence his reasoning for taking out the tissue where he'd done the biopsy.

I have to admit that I'm afraid of the chemotherapy. Everything I've read makes it sound so straight forward. But a thought lurks in the back of my thoughts: what if the medications turn me into the Hulk? Or a green insect? Will I sprout horns? Will it make me as sick as I've imagined?

I started taking the herbal tea "essiac" that Sister Mansius brought over to me last week. It doesn't taste like much, which is good since I'm supposed to drink it 3 times per day. My Aunt Darlene called me tonight (apologizing profusely for 'bothering' me!) She told me about the Magnet Treatment and agreed that the herbal "Essiac" tea was something that Uncle Evan used. Mom and I read up on the literature that Sister Mansius left. Interesting. Lots of ways to pursue treatment of this cancer. My plan is to attack it with everything available -prayers, chemo, prayers, radiation, prayers, essiac tea, vitamins, prayers - whatever can help and is reasonable.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying immensely the meals brought over. Liz Castro made the best chicken soup with noodles! And Mom and Dad Harward have been working over my garden out front. Dad dug up a giant rock - about 18" long. They put it on display in the flower beds. Mom planted petunias and allysum and finished planting my window boxes with gorgeous flowers!! We sat out in lawn chairs today in the shade of our weeping birch trees chatting in the perfect weather- looking over the beautiful new garden. It was so nice. I am healing nicely.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The blues - 3 days since surgery

I'm still flushing methylene blue. It was the nuclear medicine that they injected me with before the surgery. It helped identify the tumor and the sentinel lymph nodes. My left chest has some blue spots on it, too. And black and purple. And the letters - in bold green - "YES". Heaven help us if they didn't get it right after seeing that. The nuclear medicine people were young-looking. I asked them if they were old enough to be doing this kind of work. Peter, the technician, assured me that he'd been doing it for 13 years. He said that he was 33. The nurse was 32 and had done this for some time as well. I guess I need to learn to trust the experts - whatever their ages.

Dr. Droesch removed the tumor after finding 3 sentinel nodes. (These are the first nodes that lymph travels through to get to the rest of your body.) Two hadn't shown up earlier even with all that methylene blue in me. But, he found them and those two were cancerous. He told me (because I asked) that they were larger, harder than the other nodes and sticking to the surrounding tissue. The pathologist confirmed his suspicions. So, it looks like I have Stage 3 cancer instead of 2. They will do a PET scan to see if there is anymore cancer (not sure who THEY are or WHEN it will happen). I cried while I was coming out of anesthesia when he told me this. I told the nurse that this wasn't part of The Plan. She was so good at comforting me. She showed me a photo of someone she loved who had survived cancer. She kept suggesting that I stay overnight at the hospital because I couldn't shake off the anesthesia. It was 7pm before I got home.

I cried again today when I called Tracy at work. I'm such a boob. That's what I get for watching Heather's tear-jerker movies! Teresa called me later and told me that it was going to be ALL RIGHT. She told me about a woman who was on the Today Show who is 112 years old and survived breast cancer. Hurray for Teresa who is so upbeat and real. Yes, I will make it through this. It helps right now that I have very little pain. In general, I've been feeling great.

Mom and Dad went shopping today and got me flowers for my window boxes. Mom got some
beautiful pink geraniums and some other pretty vines. They are so beautiful. My sister Tifiny planted pink petunias in her window boxes - she said it was in support of breast cancer recovery.

It's been great having dinners brought over to us, too. Monday - I heard that they had spaghetti. Tuesday - Mom and Dad Rickords brought over ham and party potatoes and a chocolate cake! Tonight, we got turkey, stuffing, rolls and cookies. Tomorrow I've heard that they're bringing in chicken soup. Wow. I am just overwhelmed with the generosity. Kids say I should get sick more often! ha

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday - Day before Surgery

Sunday. Mother's Day. I led the music this morning. I kinda messed up one part of Hymn #146 - where the organ plays music and no one sings..... No one seemed to notice. Whew! We got fudge as a Mother's Gift instead of flowers. Jacob asked why I didn't go for the Sugar Free fudge (as a diabetic and member of Weight Watchers, I should have!) I told him that I wanted the REAL stuff. It was good.

Mom and Dad surprised us and came yesterday. Yea! They are so much fun to have around. Mom is crocheting and Dad is working on his laptop. We just got back from visiting the Columbia River Temple and showing them around so that they can help out getting the kids places, etc. I want them to stay forever. I'm afraid that we'll be so noisy and obnoxious that they'll get tired of us and leave for Utah in a couple of weeks.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday thoughts

It's Friday - finally. We found room this week for my parents to stay with us by switching kidlets around to various bedrooms. The house is put back together - mostly. Max got some pizzas - most of the kids were off with activities tonight.

I go in for a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy) Monday at 9am. Today I went in for genetic counseling. The counselor reviewed my genealogy - she pointed out that since Grandma Della Harward died of breast cancer when she was 46 and her daughter, my Aunt Maxine, died of ovarian cancer and now me with breast cancer, there is a high chance that this is a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Either that, or an amazing coincidence of related cancers in my dad's family. I agreed on the spot to have a blood test done that will tell me in 21 days if I have this mutation. If the answer is "yes," I have a 90% chance of additional breast/ovarian cancer by the time I hit my 70s. I am also concerned for my sister and nieces.

A very glad moment today was when I found out that my insurance will be covering the surgery, chemo and radiation at 100%. The trick will be to stay well enough to go to work in June and again in September to keep the health insurance. I wonder what the chemotherapy will do to me - besides take away my hair. Being nauseous has got to be the worst feeling ever to me. Cross my fingers. Say some prayers.