Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Where is it?

It’s a little strange the way a week of discomfort (and downright pain), interrupted sleep, and a fever can send the bravado that I roared into this breast cancer thing to a mewling mass huddled in the corner looking for a way to escape.

I have two drainage tubes in the incision. They are stitched to my skin. When they get pulled they hurt - a lot. That has happened a lot. The first time was upon arriving home when I removed the bra. The bulbs attached to the tubes fell. I hurt.

I am a side sleeper. I can sleep on the left side, but I prefer the right. The stitches, tubes and all are on the right. I cannot turn to the right - at all. It’s especially fun when the left hip hurts.

Yesterday the trump suit was played. I awoke with a screaming headache and a low grade fever. That just about did me in. I was instructed to go to the surgeon’s office. He pronounced that I was coming down with "something." I was instructed to take his magic formula of tylenol.

So today I am picking up the pieces of whatever resolve I can find so that I can super glue them back together. I am definitely going to need them Friday when I go back to the surgeon to have every other staple removed. Ugh.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Drugs and reality

Hmmm. I am not sure how powerful pain killers and blogging mix, but they have been for a few days. I am writing directly here in blogger instead of using Word to try to make sure all mistakes are caught before the "publish" button. When I am sober again I guess I'll review these posts to see just how much I have embarrassed myself!

More seriously, I got a look at myself in the mirror the other night when I showered. The view from above is nothing compared to the full frontal look from the mirror. I couldn't believe the horrible visage there in that mirror. The scar is terrifying and nauseating. I knew it wouldn't be pretty, but I was not prepared for how bad it is.

Once again, my strength is shaken. I want to retreat to a corner, ball up and cry. There is not the strong visage I have tried to keep. I don't see how any reconstruction could ever fix what I have in place of a right breast.

Right now I am tired and scared. I cannot get a good night's sleep because there is no way I can roll to my right side. The drains are in the exact place where I would lay. They are so sore because even though I try to be very careful, there is a tug at them almost hourly. The little stitch that holds them in place hurts so much. I cannot find a way to make sure there is never any tension on them.

I am scared because I have no idea of how many little tumors have escaped and cruising around my body. I won't see the oncologist for a week. I do not know where my future is headed on that front.

All I know is that my body has been mutilated. My left chest is a mass of scars and bumps. I never thought this would be the concern that it is for me. I never thought I identified with my body like this. I thought I was above that kind of thought. I thought I believed that the body is just an imperfect vessel. I guess I just didn't want it to be this imperfect.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A little humor goes a long way

When I was to be at the hospital on Thursday, I wanted G to work as long as he needed. K was off that morning, so I asked her to take me.

Trying to get through registration was a little daunting. The woman who was trying to get me registered didn't normally work at that position. (This hospital has only been open since the first of November). She finally got me registered - of course that was later than they had said they wanted me there, but I thought that would be no problem,

Instead of going straight back to surgery, we were put into the waiting room. After a bit the surgery nurse came to get us. She put us into a room with the instructions of changing into the hospital gown. It was not at all like the last one. This time I was to take it all off and put on the gown. Well, ok.

The gown was different also. It wasn't one of the cloth hospital gowns. It was a heavy paper one. But that wasn't the real zinger, and the one that I thought was going to get K and I kicked out of the area. This one had slits at the breast area. I was thinking that's how they gain access to the breast they are going to remove. K was sure it wasn't. But then I got to thinking that it wouldn't be a sterile field after me putting it on.

K and I laughed about it for a bit, and then I went to sit on the bed. There was a flap - at the crotch line - in the very front. That was too much. We both howled! Amy, the nurse came in. We explained what was going on with out take on the gown. She only said it got better. We couldn't see how. It was already pretty funny.

So Amy told me to go ahead and lay down. She then got a hose that looked for all the world like a vacuum cleaner hose. She plugged it into the crotch flap, and turned on the machine. It was to keep me warm/cool! We lost it! And the slits - they were hand warmer ports, That gown was the funniest thing we had seen in a while.

At least there was something to make the day a little lighter.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It is done

I am home again - a little worst for wear than when I left for the hospital and surgery, I am quite lopsided with the right breast removed, and the surgeon did, indeed, remove more lymph nodes.

His timing was absolutely fantastic. Just before I was given the "happy shot" to relax me before the real anesthesia, he dropped the bomb on me that there was one mini microscopic tumor found in one of the eight lymph nodes that he removed to weeks ago during the lumpectomy. That really does great things for the spirit, you know?

I suppose the surgery went well. I have two drains inserted that have a stitch to hold them in place. One of those stitches is right where I bend when I lean over. It really hurts.

To even things up, the left side has the port for the chemo inserted. It feels great too!

I should be thankful that the prognosis DOES look positive, but sometimes circumstances are a bit overwhelming. Cognitively, I feel things are going to be fine. While I am down here in the trenches, my emotions are not up there with the brain.

I go to the oncologist a week from Monday. Then the next piece of the puzzle will be put into place. I am guessing it will be the rounds of chemo, followed by radiation. I just am not sure about the five years of hormone therapy however.

I guess I'll find out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not what I had in mind

Strong. Stoic. Prepared. Assured. Positive. These are the words I wanted to describe me as I enter this treatment. I am not. Not one of these words can describe me right now. I worked so hard to be at least one of those descriptions, but right now I am a mess.

I am frustrated. When my arthritis is hurting me so much, it is hard to keep a positive attitude. I cannot stand for more than five minutes. Walking is almost impossible. It really is so sad when I think how well the medication HAD been working.

I am angry. I am going to be mutilated on Thursday. I know the alternative is death, but to have an entire breast removed is mutilation. I should be beyond this type of petty thinking.

I am really down today. I think fear is being allowed in. I have had one panic attack. When I was at my lowest dealing with the arthritis pain, fear seeped in. I really don't know if I am really ready.

The great unknown lurks out there. I don’t know what is going to happen. I can’t guess what my life is going to be like. I guess I just have to dig a little deeper to find my trust, and above all keep all this secret from my family..

But tomorrow is the day. It will be done tomorrow, and then hopefully I can go on with life

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sick as a dog

This weekend began Friday with Simone getting nauseated about an hour and a half into the journey into the wilderness we call the SSB. We stopped for lunch and went in. It was plenty cool outside, and the windows were rolled down pretty far. As soon as I got in the truck, she started her "licking" that precedes her vomiting. She vomited twice more before we got there.

I really don’t remember Friday night. We went to the Less Than Wide Spot in the Road Community Club. It is a bit of a blur with the rest of the weekend in my mind.

Saturday night, we went to BIL and SIL’s for dinner. They invited most of the neighborhood. That means three of the five neighbors. It was a very enjoyable evening, but we had been gone most of the day when we went into the Mega Metropolis That Has One Stop Sign. We needed deer corn, bird seed and a few other items, plus we wanted to eat at the recognized cafĂ©’ on the square.

Simone seemed to be fine on Sunday, and we invited little sister to dinner. She is living there alone except for her 17 year old dog who is on his last legs.

In late afternoon, I went out to watch the deer and the birds. I was only on the front deck. I was no more than five feet away. Simone begins her licking again. I couldn ‘t believe it. She finally settled down a bit. I went out again, she started again.

By the time LS got there, Simone was in full vomit mode. There is nothing more appetizing than I vomiting dog under your dinner table. I put her in our bedroom (being ever so thankful for the laminate and tile covering all the floors). Sure enough she vomited.
She had her first food in twenty four hours a while ago. So far so good. I covered the back seat of the truck with five layers of "stuff." I began with the vinyl backed throw for dogs, put a sheet next, then a comforter, another sheet and a duvet cover. She managed to make it without vomiting, just the pre-vomit licking.

She is asleep on her bed right now. She is going to the vet tomorrow. I think she has become a hypochondriac!

Friday, February 16, 2007

That darned plant!

I'm referring to a Kalanchoe that was send to V's funeral back in 2004. The thing lives on my back porch. Normally it just sits there, not really growing much. It's just there.

Last year, it put on blooms. By the way they only bloom in the fall/winter since (bear with the science teacher here) they are short day plants. See the relationship between season and blooming? OK It didn't bloom until last year.

And you are wondering if I have completely lost my mind. Nope, not really. I think I am becoming very superstitious. Last year my dad died. Hummm. Blooms for his wife's death, bloom for his death.

Well, that blasted plant is blooming this year! Gee thanks, I get my diagnosis for breast cancer. I'm facing a mastectomy and that darned plant is blooming - again.

I think I'm going to pull it out by its roots and fling it into the trash!

We're off again. It is our two week rambling into the wilderness of the wild country. I understand they have poured the slab for our "barn" at the SSB. Gotta go see it!

Catch you Monday. The dial up that we have access to there is maddening. I just try not to use it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


When I was in the surgeon’s office last month for the results of the biopsy he told me there would be good days and bad days in this next year. I thought it would be when the chemo kicked in. I don’t know what the future holds as far as the results of the chemo, but these cold days here in Swampland has my arthritis screaming.

I have been off the drug that keeps the arthritis at bay for about two weeks at this point. It is obviously completely out of my system. The substitute he wants me to take just doesn’t cut it. I am really hurting, and my sleep was severely affected last night.

It bothers me that I can be sent into such despair over this little set back. I have tried to be so strong about this cancer, and if I can be reduced to a sniveling blob because of this discomfort, what is in my future?

Will I be able to regain my composure when the going gets really tough?

The one thing that is a little light at the end of the tunnel is that for a period of time, there will be no surgeries scheduled. That means I can take my magic elixer, and all will be right in the world again - mostly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

And the surgeon says (and Simone news too!))

Today I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. He basically said the same thing as the oncologist meaning that he went over the same reports. But at least I was able to ask him questions since the last time my body was with him, I was a little unconscious! So this is what Dr Cutemup had to say:

It seems up cancer, as many other things, it's not over until the fat lady sings. In this case the fat lady is the pathologist.

The tumor was larger than showed on mammogram/ultrasound. The surgeon thought he had it all with clean margins, and took some surounding tissue. The lymph nodes, even now, appear clean. The particular "sentinel node" showed to be very active in taking up the radioactive substance, and seems clean. The pathologist is subjecting it to multiple staining techniques to look for the proverbial "needle in the haystack."

The problem is that there were other tumors, one 2 cm from the massive one, found in the "healthy tissue." In this case this means that I am going to have a mastectomy next week. The date is still not set, although I am hoping for Wednesday. At that time the port for chemo will be inserted and the mastectomy done. Radiation will soon follow, as I understand it. Then shortly after, chemo will begin.

In other happenings around here, Simone is in on the medical front. She has a low functioning thyroid. Gee, what else??

We noticed she was losing hair. I took her to the vet last week, and he did blood work to determine the level of fuctioning of the thyroid. OK, I can give her pills every twelve hours if it means not having a hairless boxer!

I gave her the first pill on Saturday night at 8 pm thinking this would be a good time regardless of whatever else was happening. Sunday morning she got her Prilosec along with the new thyroid tablet.

We had Sunday night family dinner, which B and C prepared and brought. I gave her the next thyroid pill at 8 pm. By 9 pm, Simone was beginning her "licking" which heralds her vomiting. I thought S had dropped food because she was very interested in something in the area where he ate. Eating dropped food will usually bring on her nausea.

By 10pm she was vomiting - a lot. She and I stayed up until 3 am. She still was not "all there."

I got up and gave her another pill at 8 am on Monday. She was not interested in her food - all day. We have come to the conclusion that it was not S's fault. She must not be able to tolerate the tablet. We have kept her from them since yesterday morning, and I have my normal boxer back. My next move is to call the vet.

It never ends!

Monday, February 12, 2007

As the pendulum swings,

Whoa, hold on tight as the pendulum swings the other direction. I saw my Swiss oncologist with the nicest French accent today. I love to listen to him speak, but I would rather hear more pleasant news from him.

The preliminary pathology reports are back from the tumor. It was almost twice as large as the mammogram and ultrasound showed. It was about 4 cm. It also wasn’t a nice little lump, it had tentacles that reached out into the other cysto-fibrotic tissue that makes up my breasts. It could have little ones hiding out in that nice dense tissue.

So what this means is that the breast and I will be parting company. The decision is now is it chemo and then mastectomy, or is it mastectomy them chemo. I for one would rather have the surgery then the chemo. My illustrious physicians will have to have really good reasons for the chemo first.

I see the surgeon tomorrow for the results. I don’t yet know if this includes the gene results or not. As it stands at this point, the lymph node still appears clean, but as the oncologist said, they are using different stains to "look for the needle in the haystack."

I guess I’ll have more information tomorrow after meeting with the surgeon. As for now, I’m just clutching onto that pendulum.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cancer surgery at its best

Yesterday was a really busy day. Things were done to me that I didn’t expect. My day began at 7am. I went to the Mammography lab in the professional building associated with the hospital. I really didn’t know what they were going to do, but I found out pretty quick. They were to "localize" the tumor. That meant that by using ultrasound, they inserted a wire into the tumor. It is really strange to see a wire protruding from your breast.

Then I was off to imaging where I got to sit for about an hour to wait for the technician to get there, as well as keep the time frame for the surgery. I knew they were going to inject me with a radioactive substance to find the sentinel node. There is a window for the injection of the substance and the time in surgery to find that node. That is the node that will be the one that is the most likely to trap any cells from the tumor. What I did not know was how much that would hurt. Even though it was a tiny needle, the location and depth of insertion made it hurt - a lot!!

They then took some "pictures" of the immediate injection site and what things looked like then. I knew I would have to wait for an hour, but I expected to go back out to the waiting room, but they put me on my stretcher to send me to the outpatient surgery area. They thought, and correctly so, that I would be more comfortable there.

After a bit I was taken back to imaging for more pictures. The technician was finally able to locate the sentinel node, and I was whisked back to surgery because the surgeon was there and ready. Vitals were done, the IV was put in, the anesthetists came in, and I was off to surgery!
My recovery was harder that it has been before, although I have only been under general sedation four other times. I had a real problem regaining my senses, or at least it seemed to me. My real pain was my knees! That was really strange. In a few minutes, however, the breast let me know it had been violated.

The best news is that the tumor was completely excised, and the sentinel node was clear. With any luck, this will not be a blog about fighting cancer. I hope to go back to just relating the doings in my family!

If this post didn’t make a lot of sense, I am on heavy duty pain relievers, and I am flying high..

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Peace and strength

The waiting for the surgery has not been terrible. I do want to get it over. I want to have that tumor removed and get on with whatever treatment awaits.

People are telling me to keep a positive attitude and keep my spirits up. I have and they are! In fact, I told one friend that’s all I have been praying for. I just pray for strength to keep myself going. I want to be able to take this with grace. It’s worked. I feel very strong and positive.

The only thing that is killing me is that I can’t take my one little precious pill that keeps my arthritis at bay. I never realized how much that little pill helped. My fourth finger, right hand is so sore I am completely unable to make a fist. When we left SSB yesterday, I wasn’t completely obsessed with getting the kitchen sink completely spotless because it hurt too much.

When I went to bed last night, there was no sleeping. Both knees were screaming, the left him was pounding, the right shoulder would not allow any comfortable position, and the right finger was just as loud as everything else.

The pain reliever I can take might as well be sugar pills, but I was in so much pain, I did down two of them. I wonder if I will get serious pain pills after the surgery on Thursday?? I hope so.

Meanwhile, people really need to be praying for G. He is really more upset than I am.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The big day

The big day is almost here. I am scheduled for the lumpectomy on Thursday the 8th.

I had my follow up appointment with the surgeon. Apparently the PET scan was good. He never brought it up, so I guess it was clear. Then we went about scheduling the surgery.

I am going to a brand new hospital, but it is not on my providers list, so I don’t know what this is going to cost me. Since the doctor hates the hospital that we all used to go to, I would rather go to this new one. He and several other docs that started the other hospital are pulling out of that one since it is now owned by a corporation and they built this new one.

I was in his office for more than an hour yesterday while they were making the arrangements with the hospital for the surgery. Then they told me to go for the pre-op at the hospital.

While I was at the registration desk, the PET scan tech came down to explain how I will have the lymph nodes checked. I will cover the entire hospital that day. I begin with the mammography lab where I think they will put some type of device into the tumor. Then I go see her in another place where she will inject a radioactive substance into the tumor and take pictures.

Then I will get to finally have the lumpectomy. That is scheduled for noon. All the while, I will not have had anything since midnight!

The rest of the pre-op included an EKG, which they did twice since the first one said I had ventricular fibulation! Then the wonderful stick for the blood work. Then it was off to x-ray for a chest x-ray.

I tell you what - by the time I have the surgery, I will glow in the dark!