Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One more to go!

I saw the oncologist at chemo today and we started talking about what's happening next.  (one more left!!)

She wants to see me next a couple days after surgery (which hasn't been scheduled yet, and we still don't know what type).  We would talk about how the surgery went and if they were able to get it all out.  She also said that they wouldn't be terribly concerned if they didn't get it all because of our plan to do hormonal therapy, the pill I'll be taking for the next 5 years, because the benefits of this pill are as great as chemotherapy.  She also said that they have given me the extent of chemotherapy they would do at this time, so that they will take my port out at surgery.  Yeay!  She said that the only reason they would be really concerned is if they found that I had like 25 lymph nodes involved or something like that.

So, she was very super positive, and I guess things are fully under control and good.

A couple things that surprised me:
-not getting all the cancer out during surgery is not a big deal, nor a reason to be concerned
-the hormone pill will be as beneficial to me as chemo
-the way she worded things made me feel like she is expecting me to have the lumpectomy, even though we told her that the surgeon seemed less sure and said we were borderline at the last appointment.

I usually audio record my appointments on my phone so I can go back and listen to it if I need to.  Today, I forgot to!  I wish I could go back and listen... sigh.  If anything else, just to recreate this feeling of reassurance and everything is under control in any future moments of anxiousness.

I also have been noticing that my hands and feet have gradually started to feel strange.  I've already had neuropathy in my fingertips and toes, but the feeling in my hands and feet is different.  Its hard to describe.  Like they are tight, weak, and less mobile.   My oncologist said it didn't sound like what neuropathy typically is, which is strange.  She said to let her know if it gets worse so they can call it quits on my next and last infusion.

LAST ONE next week!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Chemo #14 went great.  Coming to terms with my surgery options.  Cancer.  Blah blah blah.


We have bank approval, and pending that the VA loan will back the amount we want to offer (it has to match their appraisal), we are going for it!  The house went on the market yesterday and its awesome.  There's lots of quirky things about it that are weird (layout things), but the positives far outway the negatives.  The magic zone of finding land and house for the right price is very very slim and this is only the 2nd house in the last year and a half that I've said out loud "This could be the one."  So fingers-crossed that this will happen for us!  Its already got a lot of interest and we can see that a bidding war will ensue in this one.  Hopefully the VA loan qualifications won't hold us back.  hope hope hope!!!!

So, in the middle of my surgery-coping funk last week, I was having a really hard time staying positive and being able to see beyond cancer.  I was super sad that there wouldn't be anything at all beyond this.   So I decided to start writing down some things in a notebook (with elephants on the cover!) that I look forward to doing in my either near or distant future.  Buying a house and nesting in it was something I wrote down on Monday.  (Nesting includes painting my walls fun colors and buying a hammock.  haha.)  The very NEXT MORNING, this house came on the market.  Boom.  This is how I feel about it (and excuse the language.  Not my word choice, but definitely my sentiment):
Writing things down in my notebook is going to continue!!!

Among the discussions about this house with Superman, the topic of children came up.  I've always been firmly undecided and firmly in the category of not-right-now.  We have been discussing the size of our house and how it fits our future family needs.  Superman said, this house is perfect for nurturing grandchildren, and we won't be having anymore of our own at this point.  That statement affected me harder than I thought it would.  I don't disagree.  I'm just very sad.  If we were going to have kids, it would need to happen in the next couple years.  Well, unfortunately, kids are off the table due to my treatment for the next five years.  After five years, we are just going to be too darn old.  Superman doesn't want to be graduating a 17 year old when he's approaching 70.  And I agree.  So unless we decide to adopt, we are done.  No additions to our family, aside from fur-babies.  I see a lifetime of raising dogs for us.  :)  And having friends over and sharing good brews and good meats.  And having family over and grandchildren running around.  And the freedom for us to travel without being tethered down.   And mornings drinking coffee on our covered porch, gazing into the woods of our luscious backyard.  And engaging in hobbies.  And making a difference in the world at our jobs, but also, and this has become very important to me recently, having a life OUTSIDE of my job.  

I went through a time this winter, shortly before I went to the doctor and then was diagnosed, that I was feeling lost in my future.  I felt empty.  Things at school were tough.  Students were being difficult, ungrateful, crabby, and defiant.  I actually thought to myself that maybe teaching wasn't for me anymore.  I thought maybe I needed to add other meaning to my life and maybe it was time to have a kid.  Well, cancer decided that for me.  And in reality, there's a great deal of freedom that comes along with not raising young kids.  (And I've always thought it would be fun to host foreign exchange students, instead or along with raising children.)

Sigh.  Heavy stuff.  

But back to the present.  We are making our offer tomorrow and hopefully it happens for us!!  Its a wonderful house with awesome potential for our family and our future!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Giving up control

The past few days have been emotionally rough.  I guess up until this point, I had been avoiding thinking about surgery and how it will change me physically, as well as thinking about the long-term affects of chemotherapy and maybe radiation.  Being confronted this week with the very real possibility that I might have to get a mastectomy threw me back to coming to terms that I have cancer in the first place.  I hadn't been there for quite awhile.

I've also been thinking about preparing to be gone from work for surgery.  Its SUCH AN INCONVENIENT TIME - right in that first month of school!  I originally thought that I could tread water, show some movies and stuff while I was out for a week or two for a lumpectomy, but if I'm going to be out for longer than that, no I can't be doing that.  Not fair to my students to make things better for ME by taking away from their education.

I'm just going to have to let go and be ok with the fact that my school year is not going to start out the way I want it to.  I could get into all the logistical reasons why its going to suck not being there especially while starting out beginners, for possibly as long as a month, but I won't here.  Bleh.

My stomach has been icky on and off for a couple days, probably from stressing myself out.  And I went to a restorative yoga class on Friday and I think I restored a few things a little too much.  My knees have been hurting a lot since friday.  I need to be more careful I guess.

I'm proud of myself for making it out of the house on a Saturday.  I'm out coffee-shopping, maybe doing a little bit of work, but I don't think I'm going to last long.  So tired!  This fatigue thing is for real.  One of my co-workers at work, who had recently had a year with cancer as well, asked me how I was doing one day.  I replied that I was tired but doing ok.  And she said, "Its up and down, isn't it." I find myself trying to put myself into patterns and predicting how I'm going to feel from day to day.  Aside from having a poor day somewhere around friday or saturday, its really just randomly up and down.  I don't like random.  I want predictable.  I want to know how it will all turn out.  I just have to give up control.  I think that's been the hardest part.  Not being in control.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I had my appointment with my surgeon today.  The ultrasound revealed that my tumor size had shrunk just a little to 1.7cm x 1.1cm.  Though to offset the disappointment that there wasn't huge results, she said that this type of chemo is also targeting all those rogue cancer cells floating around in my body that could cause problems later.

And no definitive news regarding surgery, yet.  I'm considered a borderline candidate for lumpectomy.  They are concerned about breast disfigurement, so in that case I would need a mastectomy.  Good news is that if mastectomy is my path, they could get me in to see a plastic surgeon right away and probably (my speculation) reconstruct all in the same surgery.  And a mastectomy means no radiation, so thats a plus.

We made my next appointment for July 8, following my last chemo session and thats when all the answers will happen.

She also said that they want to do surgery 3 to 4 weeks following my last chemo.  Sigh...I was hoping to push for 5 weeks.  That way I could get school underway.  I'll be able to attend my first few days, at least.  But cancer isn't worried about convenience, now is it.  It'll also probably be during Superman's band camp.  yuck.

So I'm sad that I didn't hear exactly the news I wanted, which would've been:  Lumpectomy is a go.  I almost wish that she could've told me for sure one or the other.  I don't like borderline.  It makes me anxious and uncertain.  So now I'm thinking to myself, what can I do to help streamline this chemo process.  What can I PERSONALLY do to help shrink this tumor even more?  Ug.  Nothing, beyond what I'm already doing.
positive attitude
eat well
keep moving

I was surprisingly more anxious and emotional than I thought I would be over this.  I packed my chemo elephant and my Ganesh statue and wore my elephant bracelet and an elephant shirt to my appointment.  Wanted to bring more positive juju.

Also, I had discovered some extra lumpiness on my other side several weeks ago that I became anxious about.  I brought it up with my oncologist and she felt around and said she was absolutely not concerned.  However, when I go for my next ultra-sound, ask to have it looked at.  So my surgeon looked at it and said she could see a small fluid-filled cyst nearby the spot I pointed out, but everything else was just normal lumpy dense breast tissue.  So that was a huge relief!  Nothing going on there.  She even said that with my losing a little bit of weight, that my breasts might begin to feel lumpier with the absence of fat tissue to cover it up.  So that explains the change there.

So there it is.

ACCEPTANCE.  Gratitude.  Healing/(shrinkage!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just 3 more!

Chemo #13 has almost come to a close and has been a success.  
A couple notable things-
Last week my liver levels were high, but today they were back down to normal.
And my weight was down 6 lbs from last week, and also at its all time low.   Which is completely weird because I've been somewhat of a piggo most recently.  Yesterday I stuffed myself with french toast and hashbrowns from Aimee's coffee shop.  And then Superman and I had dinner at a friends house last night.  Crawfish enchiladas.  They were so good!  Followed by chocolate peanut butter desert.  Haven't felt that full for a long time.  ...Yet...I lost 6 lbs this week.  what?  I have been doing tons of yoga on my first week of summer vacation.  So maybe that has contributed.  And I haven't eaten lunch yet today.

3 more chemos after today!

I have exactly 16 eyelashes left.  Yes I counted.  But my hair on other various body parts is starting to grow back.  I used baby shampoo on my head this morning and felt for the first time that I was actually washing hair and not just a bare head.  Its very very thin, but its there!

Tomorrow is a big day.  I have an appointment with the surgeon for an ultra-sound to check in on the progress.  I think this is the BIG appointment where we make decisions on what type of surgery I'm having.

I'm nervous.  I have news that I want to hear all planned out in my head.  But I will do whatever is most highly recommended, even if I don't like it...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

enter summer vacation

I normally do lesson plans while I'm at chemo, but today I'm updating my blog instead!!

Summer vacation...aaaaahhhhh.

I rescheduled my chemo (#12 - four more to go after today!) from yesterday to today, for two reasons:
1.  So I could complete my work day/check-out on the same day as everyone else.  Finding people after they have gone home for the summer is challenging.
2.  So Chris and I could celebrate our anniversary without chemo-aftermath limiting the evening.

So upon leaving school at noon, I picked up Jimmy Johns (#yummy), watched the latest Game of Thrones episode (#dragon #whoa), took a nap (#firstsummersnooze), and went out to dinner and to see the Flogging Molly concert at the Crossroads with Superman (#datenight #3rdanniversary #love).

Great kick-off to the summer.  Such a great concert.  Superman is a long time Flogging Molly fan, but this was my first time listening to them.  They were super fun!  And I made it (barely) through the evening.  Definitely collapsed exhausted in the car after the concert was over.  I commented awhile back about how going out to see live music is something I can't do anymore.  I'm very pleased that I'm able to do that again (though challenging).  I'm pushing through this time and doing great.  Remaining positive.  Living 'normal' life when I can.  My days are definitely up and down, but generally doing awesome!

My nurse today commented on my blood pressure being lower than normal and was mildly concerned and asked questions.  I said, "Well.  Today is my first day of summer vacation.  So.....?"


Today's chemo traditional Harrison Ford viewing experience:  Return of the Jedi

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Anticipated Endings and Beginnings

Its been awhile since I've updated, so I'm catching up.  The past two chemo's were fine.  Chemo #10 seemed harder for a couple different reasons.  My white blood cell counts were lower than they've ever been, but still sufficiently passable for treatment.  I was on the tail end of fighting that silly cold.

I also had a very hectic end to the week with my concert, resulting in a couple long days.  And I attended a gathering friday night with some old friends and Topeka 501 music teachers.  That was fun and, at the time, I felt I had the energy for it.  However, Saturday, in the aftermath of the week, I completely crashed.  I was a blob all day long.  Very achy and it took me longer to bounce back than usual.

And yesterday, Chemo #11 was smooth and went very quickly.  Despite last week's cold and blob days, I feel as if my energy is slowly returning.  I can now make it passably through a day without a nap, though they are always appreciated.  My hot flashes and sweatiness have been better.  My hair is growing back, even if its just very thin peach fuzz.  We saw my oncologist yesterday, and she said that there wouldn't be any significant regrowth until my chemo is completely over, but its still exciting! She also said that my body appears to be adjusting to the lack of estrogen in my body at this point.  And its been handling this type of chemo VERY WELL.  She non-formally felt my tumor and said it seems smaller even still, so its doing its job too.

We scheduled my next appointment with my surgeon.  June 17.   She'll be doing another ultrasound to measure its progress.  I also expect that my surgery options will officially be discussed that day and maybe putting that on the schedule for mid-August.

Its been an interesting time.  I've been just waiting and doing my thing for several weeks, and now I'm propelling quickly towards new information and a new phase in my recovery.  I'm hoping desperately for the right answers:  to be eligible for the lumpectomy; for it to result in clean margins and a quick and simple recovery; for the sentinel note biopsy to come back with no sign of cancer cells having spread to the lymph nodes; for the staging to indeed officially be revealed as early stage cancer - 2A (only my lymph nodes can tell me that); to be declared cancer-free and move on to my 6 weeks of radiation; and then my 5 years on the tamoxifen pill.
And then ultimately, to have all of this treatment to have WORKED and not experience a recurrence or any kind of metastasis.  Forever.  The end of my experience with cancer and a new beginning.

My school year is quickly ending too.  I'm usually pretty grumpy this time of year, because my school is in session longer than my other teacher friends.  But this year I'm unphased.  I'm sure having the couple days off in the middle of the week helps with work-related burnout.  Have to be appreciative of that.  I definitely recommend to anyone having to go through anything like this, to take intermittent days off from work if you can!  It has been so important for my mental/emotional recovery as well as physical.  And being at work the rest of the time has been essential too.  Carrying on life as normal.

So I officially teach 3 more days and then I'm done.  I'll have a summer of ending chemo/recovery and the waiting game/rest until my surgery.  I'll start up my next school year again, I'm sure, before the surgery.