Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Surgery: Check!

Well, it's done. I had surgery yesterday. I am for the time being cancer free. It is a good feeling. Overall, the pain hasn't been too bad. I am just EXTEMELY tired and have these very uncomfortable, in the way, drains. I have very limited feeling over my right breast, which is very weird. I am bruised and have a crazy awesome incision that is healing well so far. The doctors reported that everything went better than expected. The surgery took about 3 1/2 hours. My tumor appeared to be close to 3 cm large. As far as my surgeon could tell she was able to get cancer free margins around the tumor, but the final pathology testing will determine that for sure. They took 6 lymph nodes: 4 of which were negative for cancer, and the 2 others were sent off for more indepth pathology testing. These tumor and lymph node pathology results should be back in approximately 1 week and will determine whether I need radiation treatment or not. Here's to crossing our fingers that I don't need radiation.

I am now home and boy does it feel good. The kids did great with Grandma Janet and seemed to understand that Mommy didn't feel good. They snuggled me very gently. Oh how I love those two! My Mom is staying with me for the week to help. Oh, how much I love her and how grateful I am to have her in my life. I'm such a lucky girl. I have so much love and support from family, friends, church, and my sweet husband. With a support system like this why shouldn't I have cancer. I have been blessed.

My breast doesn't look as bad as I had expected. They were able to save my nipple (sorry if this is too explicit), but it made the emotional shock a lot easier to look down and see it there. The drains make it look bumpy and the skin is sagging a little due to not having breast tissue there. I have an expander in the breast that will slowly stretch my pec muscle to allow for the implant to be placed in several months. It is definitely smaller than my other breast at the moment, but looks much better than I had expected. The worst part right now is the drains. Boy are they a pain in the hinny!

Here's some pics from yesterday and today:

Waiting before Surgery

Dr. Neumayer prepping for my Radioactive Injection

Saying "Aaahh" for the AnesthesiologistReady to Go!

Just Made it to My Room after Surgery

The View from my Room

Earlier this Morning

Ready to Go Home

A Motto to Live By

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Today I am empowered! I finally have a fairly set in stone treatment plan. I know what to expect for at least the next 6 months....and it feels GREAT! After having the last 4 weeks be an unknown I have such relief of finally knowing what is going to happen.

First, around 11:00 this morning I received the call that my lymph node biopsy results were back and that they were NEGATIVE! Best news I've received all year (so far anyway). This meant that as far as we know the cancer hasn't spread. There is still a chance of finding positive lymph nodes in the surgery, but for now I am going to relish in the knowledge that I don't have cancer circulating around my body.

At 11:45 I met with the medical oncologist Dr. Ali Ben-Jacob here in Logan. I was actually really impressed with him. I'd heard some people say that he wasn't really warm, but I found that he was very personable and I enjoyed talking with him. He answered all of my page of questions with honesty and compassion. I look forward to working with him.

So, here is my treatment plan:

January 23rd: Meet with plastic surgery
January 30th: Surgery Day with overnight stay in hospital
Approx. 3 weeks later: Surgery to insert the chemo port
Beginning of March: Start Chemo
Hair loss expected 2 weeks after my 1st chemo treatment
Chemo every two weeks for the next 16 weeks
June: Done with Chemo!

That is what we know right now. There will be 2 more surgeries for my breast reconstruction sometime after June and radiation will depend on finding postive lymph nodes during surgery.

I love being able to make a plan and prepare for things. There is no more unknown. Here's to kicking cancer's butt! Bring it on!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Overwhelmed by LOVE.

Yesterday I was overwhelmed by reality. Today, I have been overwhelmed by LOVE.

At work today a co-worker made a comment that hit me profoundly. It was an amazing compliment. She looked at me and said, "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but if I could've chosen someone to do this, it would be you. Your strength was evident even before you had to face all of this. I know you can do this." It meant the world to me to hear her opinion, that she had such faith in me.

Next, as I was finishing up some paperwork last minute before leaving work a few heads poked into my office. One of my sweet 4 year old patients and his family were there holding a cute little gift. In it was a pillow case, all girly and such (the material hand picked by my patient). His mom explained that whenever she is in the hospital the thing that helps her feel the most at home is her pillow, so they'd made me a pillow case to take along my ride. Attached was this sweet little poem:

"we hope this pillowcase we've made for you

helps on the journey you'll go through

your strength and courage will be tried

please always know we're on your side

we love you lots, wish you the best

so snuggle down and get some rest."

Next, I get home and find THREE beautiful vases of flowers. People who had thought of me and wanted to cheer me up. It worked, just so you know.

Finally, I spent the evening with a good friend. She had driven up from Kaysville simply to visit with me. We talked. It was nice, especially since Trav is gone to a scouting event tonight.

This is just today. Weeks ago I received a sweet package in the mail with a few of my friend's "favorite things" to cheer me up. That made my day. We've had countless dinners, babysitters, and an outpouring of love and support. Your comments on facebook and the blog buoy me up. You've opened my eyes. You've made me better. You've been such examples to me of service. I want to be more like all of you. I want to look for these little ways to make others lives better. I didn't before. I will now.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. It is so full of love....from all of you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reality Now

Today hasn't been the best of days. My mind has been going over all that I found out yesterday. I'm feeling extremely overwhelmed and when I'm alone my emotions overcome me. This is all becoming my reality now. Previously it has been in the near future. I've been doing research and waiting on test results and now it is here....

I have a tenative surgery date scheduled. It is in 2 weeks and 5 days.

I have a MASTECTOMY in 2 weeks and 5 days.

In 2 weeks and 5 days I am losing my breast. A part of me. A part of my femininity.

Sure, I get a reconstructed breast, basically any size I choose (within reason, not that I really want much augmentation) and an implant on the opposite side for symmetry, but right now, I'm mourning the fact that it won't be "me". I won't be able to feel it. It has limited to no sensation. In some of the literature I have read it is described as an amputation--which it is--and that many will have "phantom" sensations. But it will be cancer free, and it can save my life.

Then there is facing the actual surgery. I've never had surgery before aside from getting my wisdom teeth out. I'm scared to go under the knife, scared for the pain, scared for recovery. Scared to see the scar for the first time. To see myself for the first time. It's gonna be hard.

Then flip the coin...they biopsied a lymph node. What if it comes back positive? Chemo first. I haven't mentally wrapped my mind around chemo yet. I know nearly nothing about it (in my standards). I haven't even met with a medical oncologist yet. I'd still have a surgery to place the chemo port. I know very little about that as well. I thought I had at least another 4-6 weeks to research and prepare for this and now, well it may be happening soon. Ugh!

And now what do I do....wait.

Until next Tuesday.

Until I have my biospy results back.

Double Ugh!

The Hunstman Cancer Institute

Here is my post on facebook yesterday for all the details from my visit:

Today was great, but a very long day. We spent 5 hours at the Hunstman Cancer Institute. I love my Doc--Leigh Neumayer--she is FABULOUS. Over my 5 hours I agreed to participate in 2 clinical trials, talked with genetic counseling about the possiblity of a genetic component to my cancer, had 2 breast exams, had a lymph node biopsy under ultrasound performed (the swollen one from the MRI), decided to in fact do the mastectomy, scheduled a visit with the plastic surgeon Jay Agarwal for the 23rd to discuss reconstruction, tenatively scheduled surgery for the 30th of January, and officially won the award for the most vials of blood drawn at one time for testing. What a day!So, now for the plan.

Once again I get to wait on a test result. The results from the lymph node biopsy should be back by early next week. If it is positive for cancer cells that means that the cancer is more likely to have spread or be on it's way to spreading to other parts of my body. In that case, Leigh thinks it would be better to do chemo first rather than surgery. Her rational being that because I have chosen to do a mastectomy, I would have to wait a minimum of 4 weeks before starting chemo (this is to allow for adequate healing before the chemo would start killing the cells trying to heal the tissue) and that is without any complications should they arise. Leigh feels that the time for mastectomy healing should a lymph node be positive would be too much time for the cancer to find another place in my body to "set up house" so to speak. If the biopsy comes back negative we will proceed with surgery first on the 30th and then have chemo to follow about a month later. Radiation will all depend on the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes.

We also decided to get some genetic testing done to determine if I have the BRCA 1 or 2 genes that contributed to my breast cancer. This highly affects the probability of having a separate breast cancer in my opposite breast in the future. It will also have implications for my sister and daughter. Those results should be back in 2 weeks. Long day, but good.

I had a friend leave me this quote in an email yesterday..... it shed a little bit of light:

"Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain." --Elder Richard G. Scott

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I had my MRI today. It wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I only got a little anxious when I felt them start putting me into the tube and my arms rubbed against the side of it. Thank goodness for Vallium or I think I would have freaked. Overall it lasted about 30 minutes. I got a CD of all the images to take to the surgeon at the Huntsman Cancer Institute next week. I've been looking them over.... the tumor is soooo evident. It is crazy to see. I can't wait to get it out of me!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: My Year of Beautiful Heartbreak

This year, the "new year" held so much more meaning for me. As the clock hit midnight and I kissed my sweetheart, it was bitter sweet to say to goodbye to 2011. 2012 holds so much for me, some of which I'm afraid to face. As tears began streaming down my cheeks, it took me a minute to realize how much I had pushed off dealing with my disease. I'd mentally compartmentalized it into next year....next year I would have surgery, next year I'd have chemo, next year I'd lose my hair, next year this was all going to happen. And now, it's next year. It is here. I think partly, I had to push things off in order to enjoy the holidays, but boy it hit me hard on New Years. This year is going to be tough. Then, we found this song.....I hope I enjoy the view.......