Tuesday, February 2, 2016

#1... is done!

It wasn't fun, but treatment #1 is done.  Friday was a marathon day.  Early to the oncology clinic for chemo class, then labs, then an hour long heart scan then the actual treatment.  I know to plan a little better for treatment day.  I need to eat small meals throughout the day to help with the nausea.  I felt good after the treatment and tried to drink a lot of fluids and walk, knowing that the sickness was about to hit.  It wasn't fun, but it could have been worse.  I was able to get out and about on Saturday.  Sunday was spent taking it very easy.  I rallied on Monday and went into the office.  I did pretty good and left a little early.  I'm just weak...more like, bone tired.  As chemo makes everything crash, the shot is helping my bone marrow rally and keep me on track so I can do this again in two weeks.

I mentioned to Walter and Scout that I knew what it meant to be bone tired.  Scout quickly reminded me that she biked almost six miles on Sunday and she is "really" tired.  Nothing like being put in my place by the seven-year-old.  Sheesh.

Another huge thanks for all the outpouring of support.  Our family appreciates it!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Today will be your hardest day."

"Today will be your hardest day."  That's what my oncologist said to me yesterday morning.  I would have preferred that he said something like, "This will be a breeze, don't worry."

I'm not sure it was my hardest day, but it was a tough one.  There was a lot of shuffling.  Check in, labs, prep of my port with ladacane cream, chemo class, baseline heart ultrasound, meeting with my doctor and then the chemo suite.

Our timing was bad.  When we walked in it was busy and within five minutes of starting, there were two "events".  The patients were having really bad reactions to their infusions and all the nurses were rallying to get the patients heart rate and breathing up, etc.  Scary stuff.  Things calmed down and the room thinned.  They started me on pre-meds which is Benadryl, anti-nausea and saline.  After that the nurse came around the corner, dressed in a full-length heavy-duty gown, long heavy-duty gloves and goggles.  She was getting ready to administer one of the drugs, the "Red Devil".  She had two large syringes of a bright red drug - think super hero villain serum.  She has to wear all of the protection, because the drug will eat your skin, if it comes into contact with it.  Yup, and the drug got injected into the top of my heart.  Joy.

After the Red Devil, the second drug got hooked up and within an hour, I was done.  We hopped in the car, grabbed a bite to eat and headed home.  The weather was amazing and I got a hike in with Walter.  I took the anti-nausea meds as prescribed and laid down.  Things got a little rocky after that.  I was pretty nauseated, even with the meds.  It was unpleasant, but I never lost my lunch, so that was good.  Solid sleep came and things seem to be better this morning.

I'll swing by the clinic this morning to get a shot that will boost bone marrow function, which allows for me to be on a two-week schedule with the meds.  I've taken a Claritin, as the anti-histamine helps with the big bone pain that the shot can cause.

I'm hoping to get to my kid's first basketball game this afternoon and work on staying hydrated so this doesn't get me down.

Thank you to all that sent me words of love and encouragement.  I appreciate you all so much.

Thank you to my husband. He does such an amazing job taking care of me.  He is a good man.  If you know him, you agree.

So, fingers crossed that things stay good and I can stay on top of it all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My bud, Mitch

Monday was my port placement.  I had tried to be efficient and cost-effective and have the port surgery at the same time as the axillary Disection, but that idea was shot down (I mean, really? Efficiency in health care...cray cray).  So back to the lovely surgery center to wear the awesome surgery smock, hair net and color-coded(by size) non-slip socks.  It was a slow day so I didn't hear any scandalous stories from behind the circa 1998-styled medical curtains.

Mitch, the nurse anesthetist, spent some time talking with us while we waited for the surgeon to be ready.  He timed the anti-nausea drug perfectly and I came out of anesthesia perfectly.  Someone had wrapped me up in multiple blankets, with one snuggled all around my head.  It was so much better than the last surgery when I woke up cold, stiff and thinking I had lost all feeling in my right arm (wait, I did lose feeling in my arm.  The feeling came back, eventually).  Oh, and I almost puked on a nurse that insisted on praying for me while I was trying to put on my too-tight yoga pants (lesson learned).  So a big thanks to Mitch for keeping us entertained while we waited and for taking good care of me while in dreamland.

Friday is the Chemo session 1/16.  Ugh.  My Oncotype test (DNA test of the cancer) came back with a high score.  The numbers correlated to a 30% chance of reoccurrence if I only take hormone therapy.  Not good.  The oncologist thinks we can cut those odds by half with chemo.  So, that's what I'll do.  Muscle through the chemo while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy at work and at home.  When I mapped the weeks out on the calendar, it looks like I'll be done with chemo and radiation by the first of July.  Yeah!

A big thanks to my sweet mom, sisters and friends that came over Sunday and ate goodies, drank champagne, laughed with me, hugged me and watched my hair get cut short.  My dear friend, Laura, came out of retirement and did a fabulous job with my new short do.  So fortunate to have such a strong network of bad-ass ladies to prop me up, when needed.

A couple of more days of getting stuff done and making commercial banking magic happen.  Then.  Well, then I deal with a new normal for a while.  Not how I planned to spend my time and resources, but I'll deal with.  I'm strong.  I'm healthy (except for having cancer).  I have an amazing spouse and kiddo.  I have a great job with a great team.  I have amazing friends, neighbors, clients and all-around "good people".  I am fortunate.

Thank you to everyone!  I'll keep you posted.
Post-surgery with my sassy new hair and new glasses.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Standard Deviation

Another blissful week of having my good buddy, The Drain.  I'm just a few milliliters away from the goal, but it's not anything that can be rushed.  If we take it out too early, fluid could pool around the surgery site.  Due to my implants and lack of tissue, a needle excision is risky.  So...I'll be patient.  I did get released to drive and go back to work (yeah!).  It's good to be back in a routine and get back to making sh*t happen.  Trying to stay away from using my right arm is a little challenging.  I can use it, but can't pick up anything over five pounds or do anything strenuous.  It has made me realize how right-side dominant I am.

My oncologist sent my tumor off for another test.  The test analyzes the DNA of the cancer and then scores the risk of reoccurence.  If the score comes back low, then we may omit one of the chemo drugs from the cocktail.  I've struggled a bit with the anticipated results of the test.  Since they are calling this a reoccurrence, doesn't that prove that the chance of reoccurrence is high?  Not necessarily.  I could be at a low risk of reoccurrence, but still get it because I'm on the wrong side of the odds.  Ugh.  Remember how I was given a 3% chance of reoccurrence two years ago?  I should have purchased lottery tickets.  I don't want to have treatments that aren't backed by solid data, but I also feel like my situation is "special".  Don't we all?  I feel like we were so proactive and aggressive the first go-around and it still came back to bite me.  It is going to be harder this time to get comfortable with the longer-term plan.  I'll get there, but it is a little disconcerting right now.  I had a doctor tell me Friday, "Yup, you are a couple of standard deviations away from the mean on this."

So, now I just focus on Mr. Drain and getting healthy and healed before chemo starts.  I hope to have a couple of weeks of good rest, eating and running before the treatments start....oh, and study up on probability analysis.  

I'm also starting to think about my chemo style.  I know that sounds kind of silly, but it is more fun than thinking about odds.  I went for an eye exam and decided to pick out some new glasses.  When I asked the gal how the pair I picked out would look being bald, she said, "Oo, you are shaving your head too?!  I'm doing mine tonight".  Um, no.  A little different. It gave me a chuckle to think that the gal thought that I would be hip enough to voluntarily shave my head.  Due to the new known variable, we picked out some very "dramatic" frames.  They are definitely not your typical boring commercial banker frames, but I think they will be fun.  And, I have cancer, so who would give me a hard time?  I've also made plans for a fun, short hair cut prior to treatments.  I think it will be less emotional to lose short hair instead of the long hair I have now.

Thank you to everyone and the continued support and well-wishes.  I really appreciate everyone!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Recovery is so draining...,

I'm still at home.  I've come to realize that my expectations were too high about the recovery from this surgery.  I guess I thought that it would be similar to the Sentinel node biopsy I had when I had my first batch of surgeries in 2013.  Nope.  This one is a bit more involved.  The incision is across the inside of my armpit.  It's as if they scooped out a bunch of stuff and then closed things up smaller than before.  Oh, wait, that's exactly what they did.  I have a drain and thought that I might get it out on Monday.  Nope.  Not only am I healing from the wound, but my lymphatic system is trying to reroute itself since the nodes are gone in this area.  I hadn't thought about that originally and it does make sense.  One of the side effects that I am most worried about, is lymphedema, so taking time to heal properly is very important.

At home, taking it easy is not a strong suit of mine.  Yesterday I took it easy, real easy.  Most of the day was spent in bed.  I alternated between scrolling through social media feeds that told be to believe in myself, be the change I want to see, how to make Crock Pot freeze meals, blah, blah and watching six hours of Atlas Shrugged (nothing like some hardcore Libertarianism to make me feel better).  I woke at my usual 3:00 a.m. (due to a hot flash) and couldn't get back to sleep so decided to wash my hair.  Sure, why not.  I can't take a full shower until the drain comes out, so the kitchen sink it was.  Worked like a dream!

So, another day of taking it easy.  I'm thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled.

Thanks to everyone for all the kind messages and support.  We really appreciate it!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Let's Do Some Quilting

Happy New Year!
Excited about 2016?
Big plans?

I'm not a big formal goal-setter.  I try and live my life in a fairly purposeful fashion most of the time.  If I want to try something new or change something, I usually just do it, and usually without much thought or reservation.  Now, this doesn't mean that I just go off and do crazy things.  Remember, I'm a risk-mitigator, a pragmatist.  I plan for the "what-if's".  That's why this whole cancer reoccurrence is throwing me for a loop.  I really felt like the risk was gone.  So did ALL the doctors.  It felt good (and scary) to think about middle-age and maybe actually needing my long-term retirement. I had to remind myself it was a privilege to only have health ailments that included hot flashes and age spots and wrinkles.  I started planning differently.  Started thinking a little riskier in terms of longer-term planning.  Maybe I would venture out and do something a little atypical for good ole, stable EBJ.  Those thoughts aren't gone, just quieted for a while.  It's time to cocoon-up.  My good friend, Sarah Hood (you should read her blog-she writes good words www.sarahmhood.com), used this word the other day about a family that had a major change and they crawled into the family cocoon and insulated each other for a while (this is a metaphor-I haven't been quilting a ginormous family cocoon...although, there is probably a market for that somewhere).  It's a good thought.  Allowing those that care about you to wrap you up and help you grow through your transition.  And I have those people.  I don't know what I did right in my life to earn the love and compassion from so many.  The outpouring has been tremendous, again.  My heart swells.  Thank you for being part of my cocoon.

My surgeon called and the pathology results came back good.  Big tumor in the node we knew about and smaller one in another node, but all others were clear.  Yeah!  Sounds like he only took about ten, so my risk of lymphadema is lower.  Yeah yeah!

Thank you to all for all of the kind messages and gifts over the last couple of days.  I appreciate you all!

Happy New Year!  I can't wait to hear what exciting things you have planned for the year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

False Teeth

Yesterday was my axillary disection (aka: get rid of cancerous lymph nodes) surgery.  I spent the morning doing my pre-surgery routine.  Washing all the bedding, mopping the floors in the bedroom and bathroom, wiping everything down with Clorox wipes, making sure all my neccessities (remote, book, phone charger, chocolate covered cherries...) are within arm's reach of the bed.  I wasn't expecting a difficult recovery, but it's better to be prepared.

I was advised to get to the surgery center early since they tend to run ahead of schedule.  They weren't yesterday, so Walter and I got to sit in the pre-op area for quite a while.  The funny thing about that is that everyone going through surgery is staged in the same large room, with curtains dividing them.  I don't even know why HIPPA matters, as you can hear EVERYTHING everyone is saying.  Names, personal ID information, procedures, afflictions, etc.  I heard all kinds of things yesterday.  Popular topics:

Horses.  People like horses and so do nurses and doctors.  There was a lot of horse talk yesterday.

False Teeth.  You can't have surgery with your false teeth in, so the teeth come out and your family member gets to hang on to them.

Bad Jokes.  The older gentlemen seem to like to joke with the nurses and be slightly cantankerous.  Their material is pretty bad.

Crackers and Pudding.  There are big promises of a fountain drink machine with the good ice and all the crackers and pudding you can eat.  It sounds glorious while you're in pre-op and going on 15 hours of no food or drink.

The surgery went well, "textbook" according to the surgeon.  Somewhere between 5-15 nodes were removed.  Pathology will take a few days to go through all the tissue.

I forgot how sucky post-op is.  I hate that feeling.  Disorientation, numbness, tingling, anxiety and nausea.  You can't get comfortable and you just want to get home and roll into bed.  I try and speed up the discharge process and just start getting dressed.  It usually works.  We were out and on our way home in the chilly weather.

Walter has been a great nurse.  It's unfortunate that he's had so much practice, with me as the patient.  He makes sure that we are following all of the instructions and that I'm not doing something I'm not supposed to be doing.  He also stares at me a lot.  I think he feels like concentrated staring is how one effectively observes the patient.  I disagree, but am grateful for a partner that takes such good care of me.

So, now I rest and recover.  Milk my drains, gently stretch and walk, eat good food and stay hydrated.  And wait.  So much waiting.  Wait for the pathology report that will help determine the chemo regime.  Wait for the healing and the release to go back to work.  Wait and watch for side-effects from the nodes being gone.  Waiting is part of it, no way around it.

Thank you to everyone that sent kind words, said a prayer, rubbed some crystals and made countless offers to help us.  We have an amazing village!

Time to get back to bed, where I hope to not have more dreams about riding my horse without my false teeth.