Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sore in new places

Yesterday, being sore and tender revolved around my legs and my lower back.  Today, its been in the left side of my head, chest, shoulders, upper back, and ARMPITS.   I didn't know you could be sore in the armpits.  Very strange.

Charlie dog has been very clingy today too.  Maybe he can sense that my body is fighting and has been comforting me.  He's barely left my side all day.

Here's a pic of both dogs in protection mode:

And Grandma sent flowers/a plant today:

Superman and I decided to post-pone wig shopping to later in the week, due to the early onset of the snow.  Its going to be a busy week, with music festivals on Tuesday and Thursday.  It will be an actual full work week for me.  I haven't had one of those in awhile, due to all the doctors appointments and stuff.

This weekend was KMEA, the music educators conference.  I'm sad that I wasn't there.  Its something I look forward to going to every year and have a fantastic time going to clinics and catching up with other music teachers.  Ever since I was in high school, I have attended EVERY YEAR except the year I was on tour and now home recovering from my first chemotherapy treatment.  Life is lifey.  That's all I can say to that, I guess.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chemo-brain is real

Despite achy bones and muscles from my immunity shot, I went to work today.  It was the end of a grading period so a grade-prep day, no children.  It was a good day to feel out how this would all go for me post-treatment.

However, chemo-brain, whoa.  This is real.  I was at work for about two hours and hadn't yet gotten ANYTHING done on my to-do list.  I'm usually very focused, zoom-boom-zip-got-that-done-now-this.  Nope.  I moseyed about the room cleaning up after a few days of subs, filled my brita water filter, organized a few things, went down the hall and across the hall to talk with people, went to the bathroom, went to the bathroom again (I'm drinking my water!), froze in my room and decided to move to the library where it was warmer, talked to some more people, and then finally FINALLY started inputing grades.  Then I started slowly crossing other stuff off my to-do list.  Pretty exhausted at this point, and made a priority of going to get lunch, doing the remaining things I HAD to do in the building, and took the rest home at 2:00pm.  Laid down on the couch and took a nap after that.

So, all in all, a good day.  I voraciously had left-over superman's lasagna for dinner and had a reese's peanut butter egg from my gifts earlier this week.  Whoa, heart burn.  Just kind of stinks that my body is not healthy right now.  I spoke with HR today about FMLA paperwork and being eligible for the sick leave bank.  Which I will be.  But something I told the HR lady was, yea, this really stinks, but the outlook is very positive and I just have got to push my way through it.  And that's true.  This will be done.  It will be a hard handful of months, and my doctors have all said the same thing.  I will look back on this like, wow, that sucked, but you made it.

Last night, when I took my shower, I did my normal scrub on my head washing my hair, and ouch.  It was really tender.  Yep, losing that hair for sure.  No longer hoping for that 1% chance that I will be one of those people that doesn't lose it.  Superman mentioned getting up early tomorrow before the weather hits and going to the wig shop to get the ball rollin' there.

So, short entry.  Now I'm tucked in for more time on the couch and catching up on, wait for it, The Bachelor... quality tv, I know.   But I have cancer.  I can watch whatever I want!  mwahaha!

Oh, one more thing...what's the deal with this blue/black white/gold dress that people are freaking out about on the interwebs right now??  I think the entire world has chemo-brain...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chemo #1

The appointment itself consisted of drawing blood to take my labs.  This was ensuring that my blood counts are suitable for chemo.  With it being my first time, it was more of a baseline data count than anything.   Then we went to my private room (swanky!).  My nurse and pharmacist were in and out setting up my IV, which went into my port.  I was nervous about this, because my port had been causing a great deal of pain on and off the past few days.  We normally would have an ointment that I would rub on it 45 minutes before treatment, but I hadn't been given that prescription yet. So instead, they sprayed a freeze spray on it that FROZE my skin.  I didn't feel a thing, and the IV was SUPER SUPER EASY.  One point for the port!
The pharmacist came prepared with pictures of her sons for me, which I both had in my middle school band when I worked in Tongie.  Such handsome young men!  I was so glad to hear about them and their success!
Then came drip bags full of anti-nausea stuff and allergy stuff, and pills related to those same things.  And then finally came, what Chris and I have read is the "red dragon"  This is the first part of the chemo.  The A of the C.  It has to be entered manually and SLOWLY through a large syringe (through the IV of course, so not scary at all).  But the nurse had to be covered with a gown, gloves, and she laid down a water proof cloth in case of any drippings.  This stuff is toxic people.  And into my veins it goes!  And the reason it has been called the "red dragon", just on blogs and stuff, not officially by doctors, is because it is bright blood red and very potent, and it turns your urine orange and red.  And man, does it.  Within 15 minutes when I took a pee break, yup, bright red!
Picture (ignore my somewhat disgusted look as I'm watching):

Then more waiting while they finish mixing the next cocktail, to be administered through a drip bag.  And just for precautions, three different people check all the bags, tripling up on checking doses, making sure its for the right person, etc, etc.  I've had to say my name and birthdate SOOOO many times through this entire process.  I'm going to be saying it in my sleep. :)

So then around 4.5 hours later, we were done.  They walked us through the medications again.  If I was going to feel nauseous, it wouldn't be happening until tonight probably, so away I go with all I need.  I was feeling tired and groggy, a little achy in the head and for a brief time my sinuses hurt.  I definitely felt drugged out and I guess that chemo-brain thing is happening, but not sure.

So Superman made me some chicken soup at home which was delicious and I ate it all up and laid down in bed with my water and my big elephant.  I was getting up to pee pretty frequently (it was orange and red from the chemo!!), but around 4:30pm, I felt very weak and weird and then all of a sudden a wave of nausea spread across my entire body.  So, Nausea med #1, down you go.  Within 20 minutes, I wasn't feeling much better, so Superman called the nurse station and we got the on-call doctor.  He said at 30 minutes, go ahead and take the next one.  Nausea #2 is wonderful.  It has anxiety, sleep, and nausea all rolled up into one, so that was very very helpful.  However, still didn't feel good at all.  Laid around in bed, with Superman occasionally coming in and demanding I drink more water.  Water Nazi.  I would've thrown something at him if had felt like I was among the living.
Superman's parents had flowers delivered, which was a welcome sight. :)
Around 10:00pm, I had enough of drinking that nasty stale water and requested something with bubbles, so Superman put on his cape and swooped off to the store.  He came back with 7-up and some vanilla pudding.  So I sipped on that, ate about 2 bites of pudding and a saltine or two.  I took another dose of Nausea #2, and was pretty much able to get some rest, waking up on and off.

I woke up with Superman's alarm this morning, and he immediately commented on how better I looked.  And I feel better.  I took some Tylenol for aches and a couple things I'm supposed to take for other stuff, but no Nausea meds this time, and I don't feel bad.  More saltine crackers, a thing of apple sauce, and drinking pomegranate juice.  Listening to some music and writing on here!  So hopefully, the first round of uncomfortable yuckiness is gone.  I do have to get my immunity shot this afternoon, and that's supposed to do a number on your bones.  I will feel a lot of aching, and its suggested I take a bath to help ease symptoms there.

I'm getting mixed reports on whether the first treatment is the worst, or if the worst will be 2 or 3 treatments in.  Its different for all people, I guess.  Hoping this is what I can expect from now on.  6 hours of nasty tummy nausea is manageable.   I can do this.  Aches and pains, ppfffffwwww.  Look who I married.  Superman is a pain in my butt everyday.  That's nothing.  :) :P   I am of course kidding.  He has been amazing!  He's been the perfect blend of "what do you need?" and  "you need this!"  Not only that, Superdaughter has been ill with a fever and body aches since yesterday, so he is nursing both of us.  (separate rooms! I've quarantined myself to the bedroom.)  And Super-red-headed-stepchild has had bronchitis for several weeks, now, but he functions normally.  My poor husband and his sick loved ones...  The good thing, my immune system won't be compromised for another 7 days or so.  We have invested in sanitizing wipes and sprays, for home, and for when I go to school.

So, like i said, later today I have my immunity shot.  And I'm hoping to go to work on Friday, at least for part of the day.  We have a grade prep day, so no students (a.k.a.  I'll be able to go to the bathroom whenever I want!) I have some things to prepare for next week.  Band Festival field trip on Tuesday, and Orchestra Festival field trip on Thursday.  I should be more than capable by then to work as normal, but I shall be careful and treat myself nicely.  I have tons of willing young labor that will do anything I ask, cancer or not.  Love those kids.

Earlier, I questioned whether I was experiencing the "chemo brain" or not.  I have my answer.  I proofread this entry, and holy cow, tons of grammar errors and taking out words that don't belong in the sentence etc.  Come on, Reynolds.  Shape it up!  :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Preparing for war

My war bag looks like a sleep-over bag!
-stuffed animals (battle buddies)
-elephant animal crackers
-candy (ginger chews)
-fuzzy socks

More amazing gifts today.  Even students from Highland Park (Chris's school) are sending me well wishes.  Somebody sent Chris home with their lucky rock, which I now keep next to my bed.

Reese's easter eggs because I took precautions with my real eggs.  cute!

This last one is a Ganesha statue (on loan).  He's an elephant-headed diety and he's the God of wisdom, knowledge, and new beginnings.  He is also widely revered as the remover of obstacles.  I have been instructed to use a chant and to "feed" him fruits and baked goods, which I should then eat myself, and share with others, if possible.

I had lots of compliments on my new hair-do today.  But I was SOOOO cold!  I didn't realize how much of a role my hair played in keeping me warm!  What am I going to do when I'm actually bald?!

My surgery site for the port was bothering me on and off throughout the day.  So that, in combination with me freeeeeezing all day, I came home utterly exhausted.  I curled up under two blankets, my warmest pj pants, a sweater, scarf, a stocking cap, and cuddled with my head warrior elephant.  I started to feel very sad.  Here I was feeling exhausted and run-down and I haven't even officially started the battle yet.

I'm hoping that the side effects are manageable and I'm able to cope well.  I gotta commit to this drinking water thing.  I've been taking a travel bottle to work with me this last week and making a very deliberate effort at drinking from it, but I can barely make it through one round.  I drank a total of 3 cups of water today at work.  I need to be drinking eight everyday.  EIGHT!

Monday, February 23, 2015

iPort Surgery

My transition to iHeather is complete.  I thought that happened last year when I finally entered the world of Smartphones/iPhones.  NOW I have a charging port installed in my chest.  iHeather lives.

All-in-all, the surgery was not bad at all.  As with everything so far, the anticipation and the working myself up over it all is the worst part.

Petrified, I think.  Seeing my life flash before my eyes.  But this was also around the time I got the happy-relaxer medicine too, so not completely sure.

Complete with bed head, puffy eyes, elephant warrior, and Star Trek badge.  I didn't want to post this picture, cuz, Gross, but if there ever is a time that a stranger is looking up Breast Cancer blogs, they might come across mine.  I've read and seen many pictures of other fellow fighter's operations and knowledge is always a good thing.  So there it is.

The whole process was, again, squeamish, but very cool.  They wheeled me into the operating room still awake and got me situated on the table.  They told me everything that they were going to do, and if they couldn't find a certain vein in my chest, they would go after a vein in my neck instead, which is all perfectly fine and normal.  But I had my fingers crossed for keeping it in my chest.  Let's keep it simple, people.  They strapped me in, painted me with all this operating stuff on my chest and neck.   I was shivering and they apologized for all the cold things they were putting on my skin.  Apologies and concern about my comfort are always appreciated!  They were listening to 60s motown, and assured me that they were going to put me out before any actual operating happened.  And.........Thaaaat's all I remember.

So then I woke up in recovery, it was strange.  It was like, boom, all of a sudden my brain was on and talking at me rapidly.   I was super relaxed and warm and I had this overwhelming feeling of intense gratitude for every medical professional on the planet.  The first question I asked the nurse next to me was "Did they reach the vein in my chest, or did they have to go for my neck?"  She didn't know, but Superman and my amazing, beautiful, intelligent, curly-haired surgeon (i love her, can you tell?) came in shortly afterwards and filled me in.  Everything went swimmingly and without any complications what-so-ever.  YES!

So they sent me away with pain medicine.  I was home before 11am.  I haven't had any reactions to the anesthesia or pain meds.  yeay!  No nausea!  I remember battling with nausea when I got my wisdom teeth pulled out years ago.

My chest and arm are a little sore, particularly when I move it, but everything else is great!  All said and done, I'll be extremely glad I had this put in.  Whew!

I'm now spending my afternoon on the couch, hanging with the dogs, Superman, and college freshman daughter who just got home from class.  Superman is taking a nap, and Superdaughter is graciously allowing me to catch up on Downton Abbey with no complaints.

I'm hoping to go to work tomorrow, then I'm ready to rumble on Wednesday.  Time to get that liquid gold inserted into my iPort and beat this stupid thing to a pulp.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ted Talk


Sunday Funday

Some good friends came to town and had brunch with Chris and I today.  It was great to talk with them, and be our honest vulgar selves without any judgement.  I think our humor surrounding this issue could be quite offensive to people who don't know us!  I've gotta keep the laughter coming.  No use being sad about it, when I don't have to be, right?!

They brought gifts!  More fuel for my army.  :)

And mom and dad came by to visit today too, and brought a friend/new recruit.  :)

And I decided to cut my hair off.  I'm not ready for the shaving stage yet or anything, but I've read its easier to handle the hair loss when its shorter.  So, up and decided to go and marched into Supercuts and chopped it off!  I hated it at first, because the blow dry made it SUPER PUFFY!  Ordinary people don't understand my crazy hair and its curls.  But I restyled it when I came home and its better now.  So here are before and after pictures:



With my treatment plan becoming solidified, I've been thinking about sub arrangements.  I want my students to have some sort of consistency and normalcy while I'm out.  The past 3 weeks have been really rough on them!  A co-worker (bless her!) helped me reach out to a retired KCK band teacher, and felt her out for me.  She's agreed to do it, and I'm SO HAPPY!  She will be awesome.   So, at this point, I've decided to do my treatments on Wednesdays, and stay out Thursdays for recovery.   Every other week for 8 weeks and then every week for 12 weeks.   Hopefully I will feel well enough to be back in the classroom on Fridays.  *crossing fingers*  If not, I'll stay home too on Friday and also have the weekend to get going again.

Superman is currently slaving away in the kitchen making freezer meals so we have food on hand when needed.  Lasagna, Chicken Pot Pie, Vegetable Broth, etc, etc.   For this, I'm glad.  No fancy cookery happening from my end... I don't know what I would be doing without him.   Actually, I know my family would be swooping in to help.  But Superman has got things pretty under control.  Bless him.  I am a lucky woman.

Alright.  Game on.  Port surgery tomorrow.  1st chemo on Wednesday.  Rumble.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Superman strikes again

I came home last night to a bag of goodies on my pillow.


Kill germs!!

Book + chocolate = love

Mouth care. 


Ginger candies for nausea 

Body comfort, blanket, FUZZY SOCKS, cap to keep my head warm 

This.  Is a husband. That loves his wife. He had the day off yesterday, his comp day for parent teacher conferences.  Evidently he spent the day consulting his pinterest tips and shopping for me. Alright then.  First treatment is Wednesday. 
I'm ready to rumble. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pre-surgery jitters

So, the hospital has been in contact several times in the last 48 hours calling to remind me about my port surgery on Monday.  All different ladies.  All telling me the same thing.  "no food after midnight."  "Show up at 7:10am"  "The entrance next to the E.R."  ok ok, I got it.  Well, I did call and ask if its ok to take a sleep med the night before, because I'm going to be WAY BIG TIME nervous about surgery and I want to be able to sleep.  Well, one of the five women who have been consistently bothering me this week called back and said, yes, that's fine, oh and be sure to let your nurse know that you are feeling anxious.  We have an "I don't care anymore" medication that she can give you to relieve your anxiety about the surgery.


"I don't care anymore" medication.   WHAAAT?!?!  Does this come on the rocks or with an umbrella??  So, ok, I'm not an advocate of using any kind of drug to make things better.  (Aside from any medical conditions that dictate drugs, of course.). The list of medications on my record related to my treatment is currently longer than I have ever used in my entire lifetime.  Prescription and over-the-counter combined.  So, seriously, I believe the less you take, the better.  Keep your body clean.  Its better for your gut and blood, and all that good stuff.  (but now I have cancer, so what do I know?)

But an "I DON'T CARE ANYMORE" pill????? can think of a situation or two where this would be very helpful to the general population.  haHA!  But seriously, not advocating using prescription drugs or whatever of any kind.  no.  I just find this medication, and ITS NAME, for goodness sake, to be very funny.  And I will be telling the nurse that I need it.

I had my echocardiogram yesterday, and that was....   squeamish.  I watched the technician for 20 minutes, taking multiple live shots of my heart from multiple angles, and pressing a million buttons to make the screen change modes.  I could see my VALVES, wiggling side to side, letting blood pass through my aorta vein (aorta, that's a real word right.  I dimly recall that word from...a science class, in my dimly lit memory).  And then he drew lines measuring the sizes of my different cavities, and it was all very weird.  And cool.  But squeamish, is the word to describe how I felt.

Back to the feeling anxious about my surgery.  During my transition to a robot or a character from Star Trek (I'll have the badge to prove it), I'm not allowed to wear jewelry.  So I'm going to have to leave my elephant bracelet at home.     !!!!    !!!!!
I am however allowed to wear underwear and socks (SOCKS!) as long as they are 100% cotton.  So where can I find some elephant underwear and socks before Monday!??

Superman was asking me what kind of food I want to eat after chemo.  Well, it can't be anything I love, because I won't love it anymore once its associated with treatment.  My mother's friend and neighbor (15 year survivor!) said "no burger and fries.  big mistake.  stick with broth."  So I'm thinking....soup.  Maybe chicken noodle in variety.  Its not my favorite soup, so no harm done.  And chicken noodle has been proven to excel healing.  So, there it is.  Chicken Noodle, broth, and other mediocre soups (not like Free State Cheddar Ale Soup, or anything.  No.  Must preserve that goodness!)

...again, people have been so awesome.  NW Staff members in particular, so many offers in whatever help I need.  I may have to take people up on the frequent bathroom breaks requirement of my treatment...sigh!   Students have been giving me handmade cards, and declarations that they will be praying at home.

A student sent me this yesterday:

(She doesn't know that Superman gave me a disney princess coloring book for waiting rooms...)

Another group of students made this, and also one gave me a business card for her church, if I ever needed anything:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chemo Class

So I went to Chemo school today and met with a nurse and a pharmacist.  They walked us through what to expect at treatment, the side effects, and the massive list of medications.

My brain is to capacity at the moment but I came away with these top five important things:

-A temperature above 100.5 is a bad thing.  Call the doctor immediately.  Even if its 2am.
-Drink 8 glasses of water/juice a day.  Coffee doesn't count (but THANK YOU, IT'S OK TO CONTINUE DRINKING COFFEE, YES)
-When I have to pee on the day of or the couple days after treatment, pee immediately.  Don't hold it!  Get the stuff out of your bladder.  This will take some adjusting to, especially if I'm in the classroom.
-Gargle salt water 3-4x a day.  Protects your mouth from drying out and sores.
-Invest in baby shampoo for my future bald head.

The pharmacist was actually the parent of a former student.  The good kind.  Although this could've been a little awkward, it was actually the opposite.  It was relieving to have someone I knew telling me all that massive bits of crazy information, answering questions, and again that great humor and positivity that is fast-becoming the trademark of Lawrence Memorial.

Then we did the Zoladex injection to further protect my fertility, which looked way more scary than it actually was...  I swear I could hear my ovaries screaming at me later.
Their final minutes before they drifted off into a heavy confused sleep:  "Waaaa....NOooooooooo.....zzzzzzz".  #temporarymenopause  #hotflashescouldbefun  #Ihatewinter

And we decided to do the port instead of using the veins.  Especially because three sets of nurses over the past week that have continually been asking to look at my veins again, and again, and again... My veins look fragile evidently.  Ha! Little do they know....  No, really, they are probably right.

So, Echocardiogram tomorrow.   Minor surgery on Monday for the port.  1st day of chemo on Wednesday.  So glad this is all moving so fast so I don't have to think about it and JUST DO IT!

I told my students in my even hour classes today.  I'll get to the odd hours tomorrow, except for one, leaving early for my echocardiogram.  They were all very sweet, and asked really good questions.  People all around have been just awesome.

Some amazeball friends/family have sent me little messages with elephants in them.  I squealed in delight, LOUDLY, at the elephant with the saxophone.  :)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Celebrating on Fat Tuesday

Good news!!

We had my appointment with the oncologist today.  Such a relief.  My scans came back clear of any evidence of the cancer having spread.  I quote from the lab reports "NO METASTATIC DISEASE SEEN".

And the hormone receptors are estrogen and progesterone positive.  This is a REALLY GOOD THING for treatment.  They can use hormone therapy to starve the cancer.  But chemotherapy is a strong recommendation, especially with my age.  Chris and I were prepared for that news.

Then, if all goes well (and studies show that younger women respond well to chemo), a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy every day for 6 weeks.  And then 5 years of tamoxifan, by pill.  That's the hormone therapy part.

They also took blood to test for the BRCA gene, but she is predicting that its negative.  The results on that can guide my decisions regarding surgery, if I want to go beyond the lumpectomy to a mastectomy, etc.  Also, to inform my family of any risk to them, as well.

So what's next:

1.  I'm doing an echocardiogram to clear my heart for chemotherapy, which is a standard protocol.

2.  They've evaluated my veins to see if they are viable to give the treatment.  All looked good.  Depending on how the first few treatments go, I might be advised or can just decide to have a port put in.  That's basically surgically putting a hole into my chest that they can access for the purpose of giving the treatments.  Then when I'm done with chemo, they will take it out.

3.  I need to make a decision regarding my future fertility.  There's a Zolodex (sp?) shot they can give me that will shut down my ovaries temporarily throughout the treatment, so chemo doesn't effect them as much.  And that decision has to be made in the next 24 hours.  Oy.

4.  Chemo learning class tomorrow afternoon.

5.  Chemo starts next Wednesday.  Its two different halves.  One is called A/C.  Once every two weeks, 8 weeks long.  The other is called Taxol.  Once a week for 12 weeks.  They are very flexible in finding a schedule that works well with my work schedule.  And I can keep working as long as I feel up to it.  Chances are I'll just be feeling yucky for a day or two afterwards and will be ok the rest of the time.  And then a shot the day after to boost the immune system.

5.  I will lose my hair.  yuck.  But, hey, fun wigs in my future, right??  I was thinking I would cut my hair short-short too, so that chunks of long hair aren't falling out when its time.

Chris (a.k.a. Superman) and I went out to lunch afterwards to my latest favorite restaurant, Ladybird Cafe.  Its Fat Tuesday and the Mardi Gras parade came through the restaurant.  There's "a moment" again.  Life celebrating my good news.  Although the chemotherapy is sure to suck really bad, I'm happy that things aren't complicated (considering) and that my treatment is typical of many many many other women who have beat this and gone on with their happy awesome lives.  I'm so excited.  So many good signs.  Guys, I'm gonna kick cancer's butt!  And when I'm super grumpy and not feeling well in a few weeks, I can be reminded that this is all for a purpose.  Fighting cancer and shut the door on your way out!

Chris and I also had some yummy peanut-butter-chocolate pie to celebrate after the glorious music.  Finally, good uplifting news!  So relieved!


Mardi Gras Parade :) 
Notice Superman across the table...

Monday, February 16, 2015

C.S. Lewis

Nothing will be able to answer the "why me?" question.  However, a friend sent me this today.

Quoted from C.S. Lewis:

"It (illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation) seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.  Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself….He is going to make us into creatures to do the impossible."

When my thoughts start to spiral downward, I can go back to this.

Change of subject, when do I get to play the cancer card and get permission to OWN an elephant?!

These guys are groovin'!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Patronus and medicine

I've been so impressed with the medical professionals I've come into contact with so far.  While I've sat petrified in chairs and on tables, being poked, prodded, and given bad news, they have all been informative, compassionate, gentle, amazingly skilled, positive, and in good humor.  And after hearing that my oncologist was a drum major for her band in high school, I now want to ask every last one of them, "Did you study music when you were in school?  Band?  Orchestra?"  Make a personal music advocacy study of the professionals of Lawrence Memorial...

I'm also thankful for the colleagues, and friends I've told about this turn of events in my life.  So many of them have sent along uplifting messages full of strength and faith.  I spent some time considering who I should tell.  I don't want to be presumptuous that my health is worthy of a mass email, so at this point I decided it was a need-to-know situation.  Its not that I don't want people to know, I just don't want to assume that the world revolves around my issues now.  So, at work, I limited it to my bosses, the elective team, and colleagues that I interact with daily - the ones where my string of absences will have a direct effect on their day.  And with friends, if the role were reversed, I would feel sick to my stomach if I didn't know that this thing was currently happening to them and that I couldn't start putting my thoughts and energy into hope and support.  It was hard (is still hard) to know where to draw the line of communication.

Well, anyway, its part of the reason why I decided to start this blog.  1.  Writing is personally a form of therapy for me.  Medicine.  2.  Anyone who wishes to keep up on this situation can tune in on their own and not be subjected to emails and messages that they aren't in a mindset receive.

I bought tickets to see the comedian Nick Offerman for Chris and the kids at Christmas, looking forward to an evening with family full of laughter.  Little did I know that February 12th would also be the day of my first appointment with an oncologist.  The great thing about Nick Offerman's wildly inappropriate humor is that it also contains a message, or series of messages.  #paddleyourowncanoe   It was one of those evenings that it was clear I was supposed to be there at that time.  It felt like Nick Offerman came to Lawrence, KS just for me.  One of the many nuggets of wisdom he spoke about was enjoying your life and embrace things that are meant to be medicine for your existence.  On the first mention of "medicine", Chris grabbed my hand, and that's when I felt the moment.

Chris has been super amazing.  SUPER AMAZING.  I bought him a superman shirt for Valentine's Day.  He has been my superman.  Hugging me, holding me, wiping tears, buying me special juices, making me a pink medical organization binder (complete with crayons and a coloring book for waiting rooms), spending hours on pinterest pinning about chemotherapy tips, and keeping me laughing.

Being a person that annoyingly searches for symbolism and purpose in everything that I do, I adopted an animal to be my mascot.  spirit animal.  patronus, if you will.  The elephant is a symbol of good luck, strength, serenity, and wisdom.  All things that I will need this year.  On the day of my biopsy, I saw an elephant bracelet, advertising good luck, so I bought it.  I haven't taken it off since.  So.  The elephant, it is.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Future Survivor

I have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  We don’t have all the information yet, but here’s what I can tell you.

-It’s a very common type, which is good for treatment (invasive ductal).
-Its moderately aggressive (moderately differentiated, which is good.  Better than poorly differentiated!)
-With the information we have right now, it is categorized as Stage II, but we don’t have the complete picture yet.
-Waiting on hormone receptor results, which decide the details of treatment.
-They scheduled me for a CT and Bone Scan, to see if it is showing up anywhere else.  This can affect what Stage its in.
-The expected treatment at this point is 4-5 months of aggressive chemotherapy, to be followed by surgery.  The intent is to shrink (or eliminate) it before taking it out.  I anticipate missing a great deal of work, but the oncologist told me that many people are able and continue to work intermittently during this time.

Obviously this has come as a huge shock.  It was something I discovered myself and made a general doctor's appointment, but I didn’t learn of the real possibility until last week after a follow-up mammogram and sonogram.  Biopsy results came yesterday confirming what the doctors were expecting.   I have empowered myself with knowledge and I am doing well emotionally/mentally at this point.  I’m also relieved to be moving forward with answers/treatment and a team of doctors who are all strong kick-butt women.  My husband, Chris, and I feel 100% confident in following their recommendations.

I have tons of support from my family and our insurance situation is great, between KCK's blue cross plan and Chris’s army coverage.  So we are feeling very optimistic and ready to take this on.  As my surgeon said “A year or so from now, you will be a breast cancer survivor”.   

More answers at my oncologist appointment on Tuesday.