Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Lopsided Life

I've had a lot of ups and downs the past few days.  Sometimes I really regret my decision to have the mastectomy, and think I've made a HUGE mistake.  Usually, after I've thought it through, I remember the reasons I made the decision, and I'm ok with it.  Usually.  Yesterday I talked with the nurse navigator (Barb) at the Breast Health Center about the pathology results.  The main reason I chose the mx (mastectomy) was because there was more invasive cancer and DCIS than what showed up on the mammo or MRI, and I didn't know if there was more floating around in my breast.  The fact that it was an aggressive cancer (HER2+++),and had already spread to 3 lymph nodes, made me not want to take the chance that a re-excision would miss some. Anyway--back to Barb.  At first she said the path report showed only DCIS, and I asked her if it said somewhere how much was found.  She was reading it and trying to figure it out, and said that maybe they didn't find anymore.  She said that Dr. Morris would have to read it and answer that question for me.  I see him on Tues. morning for post-op follow-up and drain removal.  Dr. Morris told me that we might not find any more cancer.  There was DCIS at 3 of the margins of the lumpectomy, but that might be as far as it went.  He said that would be a good outcome.  Secretly, I didn't think so!  So when Barb told me there might not have been any more cancer, I just lost it (after I politely thanked her and hung up the phone!).  I went in my room and had a good cry.  All I could think at the time was I made a huge mistake and I want it (meaning my breast) back!  I was a little depressed the rest of day.  It was just this morning that I finally remembered why I had the surgery done (see above).  I wish there was some way I could have known for sure that there was no more cancer, but there just wasn't.  With all the tests they can do these days, there still isn't one that can always see 100% of the cancer.  I hope sometime soon I'll be more at peace with my decision.  We'll see what Dr. Morris has to say on Tuesday.
Yesterday I asked my sister to run to a store and buy me a sport bra.  There is a light shelf bra in the cami I got from the hospital, but it offers no support for my right breast.  I tried to match it with the soft breast form on the left side, but couldn't get it to stay down far enough--so I had one up high "breast", and one headed toward the ground! lol!  I couldn't leave the house until I could find a way to match them better.  Dee brought me several bras and camis to try.  Only 1 fit and offered some support.  I wore it today.  Not very comfy, cuz its a little tight and pressed the breast form against my chest (luckily its mostly numb!), but it worked for a while.  While at Target today I bought a few soft, wireless bras, and I'll try them on later.  Yes, this would all be easier if I had a bilateral (double) mx, but loosing both would have been WAY to difficult to do at one time.  Maybe I'll be ready for that next year.
I'm healing up nicely, I think.  I haven't had any pain meds since Thur. am.  In the afternoon I was feeling a little nauseous, and really foggy brained.  I think it was a build-up of too many pain drugs since the surgery.  I felt much better the next morning.  All I take now is the occasional ibuprofen.  Most of the area is numb, but I get occasional sharp pains.  My drain doesn't bother me too much, and there is not as much coming out as the last one I had.  I am hoping I can get it removed on Tues., as planned.  And I'm praying it doesn't hurt as much!
It was nice to get out of the house today!  I put on a little make-up, did my hair, and spent a little money--all good things!  :)  Rich is so funny at Target.  If we go anywhere near the baby clothes, he goes right in and looks at stuff for Brennan.  We don't always buy something, but he likes to look.  He can't wait to buy Brennan his first little pair of "work" boots.  Today we ended up buying a little shorts outfit.
We came home and took a nap!  Rich is getting ready now to mow and weed-whip and such.  I might help pick up sticks a little bit. My main job when Rich mows is to bring him a glass of water about halfway through.  I think I can handle that! I'm going to make tacos for supper, then I might make him some cookies. Not from scratch.  He likes choc. chip cookies ALOT, so we buy the ready made dough.  Once in awhile I'll make homemade ones.  Shonna makes yummy ones with oatmeal. 
Well, Rich is already mowing--guess he's not going to pick up sticks first.  Maybe I'll go sit on the deck for a bit.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trying to be a Mudder

I think I am doing well, all things considered.  I am still taking pain meds, and they are keeping the pain under control.  There is more pain this time than there was after my lumpectomy.  Its a larger area of my chest that was affected.  Most people don't realize that the breast tissue goes up near the collarbone. I have a big dip in my chest near there where tissue was removed.  The surgeon left some tissue behind, to help with reconstruction, so the area looks a little worse--not the nice neat scar some would expect.  If I choose not to have reconstruction, I will have the extra stuff removed.
Emotionally I am doing well too, at least so far.  There is a lot to deal with right now, but I'm not overwhelmed or upset.  I'm really taking it easy and giving myself time to get used to all of this.  I have a lot to do the next few weeks, but for a few days I'm just relaxing.  Today I plan on keeping my mind on some Bible verses, and just keep God in my thoughts as I go about my day. 
You may have noticed I've been playing with my blog a little.  I've added labels and some tabs at the top.  Hopefully this will make it easier to navigate the blog.
The former Senior Pastor at our church, Tom Stuart, has a wonderful blog.  There is a link to it on my side bar.  The other day he blogged about "Mudders".  A Mudder is someone who overcomes what life throws at them--like a horse that performs well in muddy, adverse conditions.  Here is a line from Tom's blog about spiritual mudders:" ...if you’re a child of God, born of the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, you’ve got “mudder” in your spiritual genes. That makes you more than a conqueror through Him who loves you; and an overcomer in anything life throws at you."  Tom mentioned me in his blog as a spiritual mudder--I was honored to be mentioned there!  I have never felt like an "overcomer". It's not something that comes naturally to me, but it speaks to the power of God, and the miraculous things He can do in a person's life.  Any challenge you are facing, no matter how overwhelming, God can turn you into a "Mudder".  You too can overcome and even CONQUER any troubles you have on this earth.  God is truly amazing and His love for us is deeper and wider than anything we can imagine.  Just talk to Him; He'll reveal Himself to you, and you'll be amazed too!
I'd love to hear from some of you that are reading my blog!  You can comment on my blog, or e-mail me if you want your comments to be private.  If there is ANYTHING I can do to help you or someone else get through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, please let me know.  And, of course, I always welcome insight and advice from others who have been through what I'm going through now!
Thanks for checking in today!
Love and blessings!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Home From Surgery

I got home about 2 hours ago. Just been catching up with e-mails and on Facebook.
Surgery went just as expected--no surprises this time! I wasn't able to talk with the surgeon today, but saw his residents, who helped him in surgery. The surgeon (Dr. Morris), told Rich yesterday something about leaving behind some of the extra skin that may help with reconstruction. That's cool that he was thinking of that and doing what he could to help. I assume I'll eventually want some sort of reconstruction, but won't make any decisions on that until next year.
I'm not feeling much pain, so might just try one Percocet instead of 2 in a little while. Last night and early this morning I had a lot of pain when the nurse was "stripping" the drainage tube. It was causing suction on the inside. The nurse said sometimes that happens. It didn't hurt when she did it at noon though, but I made sure I had my pain meds first, just in case! Hopefully it won't hurt anymore at all.
Didn't sleep hardly at all last night--maybe an hour or 2, then a little 1/2 hour nap this morning. Most of the nurses and PCAs at Regions are really good, but I had this one PCA last night that left the door open after he checked my vitals at 11 last night. It was very noisy out in the hallway! Finally the nurse came in for something and when she was leaving asked if I wanted the door shut. Then this morning the same guy comes in to restock my towels at 5 am--seriously?!?! That couldn't have waited? And again he left my door open! Sheesh, you wonder sometimes why certain people even want that job. Everyone else there does what they can to make you comfortable and help you sleep.
As I was laying there last night I realized that I'm not afraid of surgery anymore. I was very upset to have this one, but I wasn't afraid of the actual procedure. My first major surgery was my colon resection last year. I was pretty scared! Now that I know what to expect, its not so bad.
Next Tues. I'll go back to see the surgeon for my post-op, and hopefully have the drain removed. Then they will set me up to see the prosthetic fitter, and a physical therapist for my arm/shoulder. Both are there (at Regions Breast Health Center) on Tuesdays, so I should be able to do both in one day. Tomorrow I have to call to make an appointment with Dr. J, my oncologist, and set up a time for chemo class. At that class they will go over all the side effects of the chemos I'll be getting, and they will give me info on getting a wig.
Until I get my prosthesis, I have some cushy pillow like things I can wear inside my cami or bra. I probably won't go anywhere until this weekend, and if I do go out then, I will try to wear a regular bra because the cami offers no support and it too warm to wear layers, like I did after the lumpectomy. This is going to be difficult until I get a mastectomy bra and fake breast! Oh well, if people want to stare, I guess that's their problem and not mine, right?
I'm not so sad anymore, now that its done. Nothing I can do about it now, so may as well get on with life!
Thanks for all the prayers and support! Here is the Bible verse God gave me before surgery (via a daily e-mail devotional):
"Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
That's all I needed to hear! How awesome is that?
Take care everyone!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye to the Left One....

Had a very busy weekend! Alyssa and Jaren had their vow renewal ceremony and reception today. It was soooo beautiful! I've been editing pictures and sitting with my feet up for the past few hours. Now its time to pack my bag and get ready for bed. (and can't forget to run the dishwasher!)
Because I've been so busy, I haven't had much time to think about tomorrow. And I really don't want to think about it now. What was it someone recently told me? Think of it not as losing a breast, but losing the cancer. That's what I'm trying to do. I think if I were to think about it too much I would really start crying. I can't even put into words why its so upsetting. It just is. But on a lighter note, I've been able to joke about it at times too. And the hair loss. Should make for some funny stories, eventually.
Well, off to bed now--I have to get up by 6 am! Surgery is at 9am. Thank you to all who will be praying for me tomorrow. I will be thinking of that...
Love and God bless!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Busy Busy

I have thought often, this last week, about updating my blog. But either I have been busy, or just too tired. I'm pretty tired right now too. I can hardly do anything after work these days. Not sure why I got so tired again, I had been doing better. I know my thyroid has been messed up again, and that takes a while to get back to where its supposed to be.
Alyssa and Jaren's wedding is coming up on Sunday. I'm so glad she has everything under control, because I haven't been much help! Tomorrow night we have a rehearsal, Friday night we have some other plans, Saturday we have the groom's dinner at the Zech's, and Sunday we have to up bright and early to start getting ready for the wedding/reception. Then Monday is when I lose my left breast to the surgeon. :(
After that I'll be able to finally get some rest, while I am healing. But as soon as I feel well enough I have to try on and buy a wig, buy scarves and hats, and get my hair cut short. Then it will be time to start chemo.
I really hope this chemo doesn't make me throw up. Its supposed to be a little easier to handle than my last stuff, so I hope that's the case for me. I've been reading the discussion boards and alot of people do have some nausea, and most have a few days of fatigue--where they lay around for 2 or 3 days. That's not so bad. It's also supposed to cause constipation--which, if it doesn't get too bad, is actually kinda nice! When I took pain meds after my lumpectomy it was nice to only have to go once or twice a day! I just make sure I take Senekot or something so it doesn't get too bad.
Last Saturday I had to shop for a dress for the wedding. I was not happy that I couldn't find just the right dress, and looking at cute clothes was depressing me. I felt like crying over every little thing, and couldn't figure out why. Then I realized that I was mourning what I was about to lose. Looking at clothes and knowing it'll be a long time before I look good in them again. And I was upset about losing my hair too. It just all caught up to me and I wanted to hide and cry. But, of course we had a busy day! A friend was talking to me at a grad party at church and she wanted to know how I was REALLY doing (a true friend!), and I started crying. We went into the prayer room (with Rich too), and talked a bit, and then she prayed for me. I felt much better after that, and have been feeling better since. I'm still not happy about the whole thing, more like resigned to the fact that its going to happen. I feel like my whole life is about to change. I don't want it to! I'm so thankful I have such a loving and supportive family. They will love me and be by my side no matter what I look like! I'm also blessed to be a part of a wonderful church family. They really let Jesus shine through them!
Only 2 more days of work! I don't know when I'll be able to go back. I'll let the school know in August whether or not I'll be coming back at the start of the school year.
Well, Rich and I are going to go for a little walk--gotta be back for American Idol! I'll put up some pics of the wedding when I get a chance.
Love to all!

1Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (NIV)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Decision Has Been Made...

After talking with my surgeon and oncologist, I've decided to have a mastectomy. Just the left side, where the cancer is. Both recommended I delay any reconstruction until after chemo. Then I can decide what I want to do. That sounded good to me, because right now I just want to focus on getting rid of this cancer. Having to make reconstruction decisions would have been just too overwhelming right now.
The cancer at the margins of the tissue removed during the lumpectomy is DCIS. The surgeon feels we got all the invasive cancer. But apparently there is more DCIS (non-invasive cancer) than we knew about, and that can eventually become invasive.
I might still have to do radiation. I will have to meet with my radiation doc to discuss that. Studies have shown that if the cancer has spread to 1 lymph node there is no added benefit from radiation. If its in 4 lymph nodes, radiation is necessary. 2-3 lymph nodes is a gray area. But the cancer broke through one of my lymph nodes, which might make radiation more desirable.
The plan is: (I think I went through this all a few days ago, so skip this part if you want) Surgery on Monday, May 24th. 1 or 2 nights in the hospital. And yes I have to have another drain! My surgeon told me just because the first one hurt so bad, doesn't mean the next one will. His nurse said the armpit drains usually hurt the most. I'm just going to try not to think about it!
About 2 -3 weeks after surgery I will see my oncologist and start chemo. Andriamycin and cytoxan every 2 weeks for 4 cycles, so 2 months total. The day after chemo I will get a Neulasta shot. These are like the Neupogen shots I had to do last time, but Neulasta lasts longer. This chemo cocktail is even harder on the bone marrow than my last regimen (FOLFOX), so they don't wait until the white blood cell counts drop, they do the shots right away. One of these drugs is the one will make me lose my hair, and it happens pretty fast.
After 2 months of that I will start another chemo drug, Taxol, and Herceptin. I will first have another MUGA (heart) scan. I will get these 2 drugs weekly for 12 weeks (3months), then stop the Taxol and continue on the Herceptin every 3 weeks for 9 more months, so I will be on Herceptin for a year total. All the drugs I will get through infusion. The Taxol sometimes causes neuropathy, so we'll have to see if my neuropathy that I have from my last treatment starts to go away before that. There is a way the onc. can modify how I get the Taxol that lessens the side effects. This chemo cocktail is called AC+T (I think!).
When I'm finished with Taxol, and while still on Herceptin, I will start the radiation, if needed. That would be daily, Mon-Fri, for 5 to 7 weeks.
K, have I lost you yet? I just wanted to lay it all out there, the way the docs have explained it to me the last 2 days.
The reason I have to have the heart scans is because both the Andriamycin and Herceptin can cause heart problems. The problem usually goes away after stopping the medicine. A bit scary, especially given my family history of heart trouble, but I'll just have to trust God that He will be watching over me!
Oh! I almost forgot...I DO NOT have the breast cancer gene. That is good news. I can beat this and it may NEVER return!
I've been hearing "Do not be afraid" and "Trust Me" a lot lately. Also, I wrote in my notebook the other day "THERE IS A REASON", and I feel that was from God too.
I'm a little, um, freaked out maybe? that I have made the decision to have the mastectomy and put it on the calendar. Other than that, I'm really doing well. Really, I am! Just because I know God is with me, and His will is being done in my life, doesn't mean I'm going to enjoy surgery, or losing my hair. But He is giving me peace, and I know this is what I have to do. So its all good. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lots of Hugs!

I went back to work today for the first time in 2 weeks. Most people had heard some or all of my bad news, and I got lots of nice hugs! I feel bad about messing up everyone's schedules and having lots of different subs working with my kids, but everyone has been so good about it! They do what they can to help me out. I am blessed!
My armpit area was hurting more than usual today, so I took some Tylenol. I think it was just all the moving around I do at work. It was my first day with an underwire bra too, so I wasn't sure how that would go! But overall, I was fine. I'll be sure to take some ibuprofen tomorrow before work.
Yesterday we had our annual Mother's Day picnic at a park nearby. It was only about 58 degrees, but with no wind and that warm May sun, it turned out pretty nice. We usually freeze, and every year we discuss whether or not we want to continue to do the picnic, but we always do!
My sister-in-law Mary always does the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure on Mother's Day morning at the Mall of America. This year my daughter Alyssa and 2 of her girlfriends did the race too. I think they did the 5k walk. They made headbands with my name on them. I felt very honored by them. I'll try to post a pic of the headbands here.
I'll update more later this week when I see my surgeon and oncologist. This is the "Big Decision" week! Stay tuned....
Love ya all!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Scan Results

My onc. called last night and left messages on both my home phone and my cell. Unfortunately I didn't hear my cell because I was at a restaurant with Rich, Jaren, and Alyssa. My ct scans and bone scans were all clear! So no cancer found anywhere else in my body! Finally some good news! Last week I was nervous about the scans,because everything seemed to be going wrong, but after much prayer, I hardly even thought about them after they were done. God gave me His peace! I didn't expect to know the results until I saw my doc next Wed.
One thing I am not sure about is whether or not a tiny amount of breast cancer would have shown up or not. Since I didn't have clear margins on the tissue removed in the lumpectomy, there might still be some cancer left in my breast. Hmmm, I wonder if I could have another MRI, and if that would show small amounts of cancer left. More questions to ask my onc. when I see him on Wed. I have a list of questions I keep adding to!
Yesterday was a long day at the hospital. We got there at 11:15 and went to the Breast Health Center to have my drain removed. Not sure how much I want to say about that...let's just say I'm one of the unlucky ones that it hurt real bad. I guess it doesn't hurt everyone that bad. I took a Percocet before I went, but that didn't help any. Just made me feel really woozy after the drain came out. It burned for several minutes after. Then it felt ok the rest of the day, and even with all the pain, I'm still glad to have it out!! Although it worries me that if I have a mastectomy I'll have to have a drain (maybe more than one) again. There's got to be a more humane way to do that!
After that I went to imaging and they started me drinking the yucky stuff for the ct scans. They also accessed my port and gave me an injection of some nuclear stuff for the bone scan. While I was waiting to finish the drink (it takes an hour to drink it all), we went to the cancer center to get my blood drawn for the labs my onc. wanted before I see him. It was nice to see and get a hug from my nurse Andrea! Then I had the ct scans--took about 5 minutes. I usually feel a few minutes of intense nausea after the test. The tech slowed down the contrast stuff they gave me through my port, and that may have helped a little. The feeling passed after a few minutes, then I was able to get up and go off to my bone scan! For the bone scan I just had to lie still for about 20 minutes while this huge machine moved slowly over me. Its the same machine that did my MUGA heart scan earlier this week.
I've got all my blood test results too already. Isn't it amazing how they can get all these tests done so fast these days? I can just look online and see all the results as soon as my doc releases them. My blood tests look even better than they did a few weeks ago at my pre-op. My platelets are up more and my hemoglobin is 12.5--finally in the normal range after being below normal since my colon resection over a year ago.
I was able to take the dressing off my drain site today, and tomorrow I can shower. Today I took a quick bath and washed my hair under the faucet.
I am having some occasional sharp pains in my armpit area and at the incision site, which is totally normal. The nurse said they call them "zingers". They get a little annoying, but not too bad. Still have a lot of soreness and stiffness in my upper arm and shoulder. I've been doing my exercises! And, of course, my breast is still bruised and sore, but that's not too bad either.
I think I'm going to stay home from church tomorrow. Its my last day before going back to work and I really just want to lie in bed and read the paper! We are having a picnic at the park nearby about 12:30. We always have our Mother's Day picnic there, and we always freeze! Hopefully it won't be too windy. Temp is supposed to get to around 60. And I think its supposed to be sunny.
Well, this week should prove interesting! Hopefully by the end of it I'll know what type of surgery I'm going to have and when, and when I can start chemo.
Keep me in your prayers!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In a Holding Pattern

I still haven't made my decision yet--mastectomy (single or double), or another lumpectomy. I think I am leaning towards a mastectomy now--that's a BIG change from before. But we'll see.
My oldest brother called me the other day. Wanted to put his 2 cents in. He asked why wouldn't I do everything possible to make sure the cancer is gone and never comes back? Good question. He also shared some experiences others' have had, and that's always helpful. I think part of my problem is that cancer doesn't scare me anymore, but it should! I should be doing everything possible to be around to watch and help my girls become wives, mothers, or whatever God has for them. And watch my grandson become a Godly young man. And, HOPEFULLY, to see MORE grandchildren! And, of course, to grow old with the man I love.
On Tuesday I had a MUGA heart scan and an EKG. These tests are necessary to make sure heart function is good enough to handle the chemo I'll be getting. I'll get them throughout my treatment to make sure the drugs aren't damaging my heart. Those tests showed my heart is good to go!
Tomorrow I have a bone scan, 3 ct scans, and I'll have my drain tube pulled. I can't wait to get rid of it! I'm going to be a baby and take a pain pill before I go. Rich will drive me. Going to be a long day.
Monday I go back to work (guess I'll have to start wearing a bra again!). Tuesday I meet with my surgeon. I have lots of questions about different options for surgery, and reconstruction. Wednesday I meet with my oncologist to go over all my test results and talk about "the plan". I have lots of questions for him too--like what it means, exactly, to be HER2+, and is that +, ++, or +++ (apparently there's a difference). I think HER2 is a more aggressive cancer--should that make a difference in which surgery I should have? Am I at more risk for it to come back, and if it does, will it be aggressive and quick moving? [Shonna loves mama lots. ] Still have not gotten my genetic test results. I left a message for the genetic counselor, but I don't think she'll be back in before Tuesday. I really need to have those results to make my decision.
So, after all my appointments next week, I should be able to make my decision. I won't be having surgery or starting chemo until after May 23rd, so I'm thinking surgery will probably be Monday the 24th, or soon thereafter. I'll get 2 or 3 weeks to recover, then bring on the cancer killing poison!
Well, I see Shonna put her little message in the middle of my blog! Silly girl! I've been distracted by Brennan. So now I've forgotten everything else I was going to say! I guess I'll end here!
Love to all!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Prayer (and laughter!) is a Wonderful Thing

First I want to say that I am still chuckling over a blog I just read. "Whitestone" is bald from chemo and is visiting her daughter (here in MN). She decided to try some shampoo her daughter had for "curly" hair(!). She reported that, no, it didn't make her bald head curly--it was just wishful thinking! She signed off as "still bald, but not curly". For some reason that last line really made me laugh out loud! Still does! Thank you, my dear, for your wonderful sense of humor!
Today at church we had a pastor(?) from the International House of Prayer in KC (IHOP) visiting. He is a prophetic minister and has the gift of healing. So after the service my family and I went up to get prayer for my cancer. This week has been really stressful and difficult for me, and I just don't know what to think or how to react to all the bad news I've gotten. I've been wondering how much worse it can get, and I'm afraid to have all my scans next week. I REALLY want to continue to praise God through all of this, and draw closer to Him. I'm praying that I will be able to hear His voice--I want that soooo badly! And I hope others will see my faith and theirs will be strengthened--that would make all of this worthwhile. But the important thing is that GOD'S will is done--not mine.
Anyway, the prayer with Graeme Walsh was really good, and freeing. I just felt a big release--of what I don't know--healing? tension? stress? Doesn't matter. It felt good.
One of the most important sermons I've ever heard was one of the ones during the "Fearless Living" series our church did recently (you can listen online at God really wants us to rely on Him--totally and completely. That is what I am learning through all this. It is so hard to FULLY comprehend what that means. But every now and then I catch little glimpses of it, and for a moment I "get it", but when I try to grasp onto it, it disappears like smoke. But I am encouraged that God is giving me these little moments of understanding. There is just so much interference I have to work through. At times like this I actually get excited to be going through this if it means walking closer with God.
The last time through chemo He really showed me that He was there for me and hearing the prayers of everyone for me. That helped me through my lowest point. I fully expect more from God this time. This is a season I have to go through, but I don't have to go through it alone. And I hope my husband and daughters know that God is with them too, helping them through this. Don't be afraid to pray for yourselves, thinking that its all about me. You are all with me in this, and you need to be lifted up in prayer too. God will help you through, no matter what happens to me.
Ok, I went from laughing to crying in a matter of a few minutes! Such is my life right now! :) This is going to be quite a journey! Let's be excited that God loves us so much that He DESIRES us to be closer to Him. We must go through the fires to be refined into pure gold; our branches must be pruned so that we can bear fruit. (ok, I hope I didn't mess those up! lol! I'm NOT a preacher!).
"Praise the Lord, oh my soul, all that is within me praise His holy name!" Psalm 103:1
Love to all!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Corrected HER2/neu Information

I've been saying that Her2 is a hormone, like estrogen and progesterone. But that is not the case. Here's what says:

"Oncogenes are bits of genetic information inside the body's cells that usually work to protect us from cancer, by keeping cell growth in check.
Oncogene overexpression happens when an oncogene (such as the one called HER2/neu) malfunctions and "overexpresses" itself (like screaming instead of talking) by making excess normal or abnormal proteins and receptors. This can lead to cancer. Cancers that result from overexpressed oncogenes such as HER2/neu tend to be more nasty or belligerent and are more likely to recur than other cancers. They also may respond to different types of treatment than other breast cancers."

Herceptin is a newer drug used to block the cancer cells from receiving growth signals. I will be taking it for about 7 months, through an infusion each week. This regimen won't start until I'm done with the first 2 chemo drugs. Being HER2 positive used to be a bad thing, because it is more aggressive, but now with Herceptin, it can be treated.
So, I found all that interesting. I've still got alot to learn about my type of breast cancer. I was surprised at how many variations there can be. Mine is stage 2B, grade 2 (unless that changed with the new path report), 3.4cm, 3/9 nodes, er-/pr-/HER2+. I think that's all. :)
Good night!

The Decision Weighs Heavily On Me...

Its all I can think about--should I have the mastectomy, or not, and if I do, should I do a bilateral (remove both breasts)?
I've been reading alot on the forums at Pros are: no need for radiation (in my case, anyway); no need for repeated lumpectomies; no worries about cancer returning to that breast. Some women remove the non-cancerous breast also--for cosmetic reasons, (both will be the same size), or prophylactic (sp?) reasons--they don't have to worry about getting cancer in that breast. Although there is a chance (5% I think?) that you can still can breast cancer because there still is a small amount of breast tissue on the chest wall. If reconstruction is done you can end up with perkier breasts!
Cons are: uneven breasts (if only doing one); longer recovery; phantom pains occurring months to years later (post mastectomy pain syndrome); self-image concerns.
I'm sure there are more issues on both sides, but that's all I can think of at the moment.
I'm really struggling with the self image stuff. Of course Rich will still love me, no matter what I do, but men are visual after all. I may end up looking better with clothes on, but reconstructed breasts will never be the same as "real" ones.
And I worry alot about the pains that may happen after, and may last for years. I want to be done with cancer once I've finished treatment, I don't want to suffer for years. OK, knowing what I know about cancer treatment, that shouldn't be a concern. Most treatments DO have lasting effects. My neuropathy could be permanent, and I have "female" issues from radiation that I will have to deal with forever, and don't forget the sensitive, sometimes very painful skin on my bottom, and the list goes on.
I've been struggling with "who am I?" I have the head knowledge of knowing I am loved by my husband, kids, family, and that I am created in God's own image. But I still feel like I am losing myself as a woman. I might be a hairless, boobless, scarred up shell of a woman. Hey, just laying it out there. Actually, just typing all this helps me work through it. And I know it may sound silly to many of you. But these are the things I have to work through.
Right now, I'm going to try to give it a rest. I won't be making the decision until I have the genetic test results, and I talk over ALL my options with the surgeon.
Today I worked in my garden for a little bit. Couldn't do too much with one arm, but I did fill one big bag with leaves and plant debris. Everyone else around here has already cleaned out their gardens, and mine are still full of oak leaves! And the weeds are already taking over! I'm thinking of paying the neighbor boy to clean out the rest and weed for me. Then I want to buy more perennials to plant. I haven't done much with mine and last year they didn't look so good. Time to fill in with some new ones. We'll see if it gets done this year. I guess it depends on how well I handle this chemo. I can't imagine that it could be worse than the Folfox I had before. This stuff is supposed to be easier to tolerate--I've heard that before though! There are people who were able to work through the 12 rounds of Folfox, and I could hardly lift my head off the pillow! And remember my radiation was supposed to be easy? NOT!! If anyone has to have radiation for colon/rectal/anal cancer, have them talk to me FIRST. There are things they need to know!
I think I'm healing well from my surgery. I haven't needed any pain meds the last 2 days. I'm a little sore now, from being so busy today, but its not too bad. I have to wear bulky clothes, or loose shirts so that you can't really tell I'm not wearing a bra, or see my drain. I wear a cami that has a pocket for my drain and a light shelf bra, but anyone my size knows shelf bras are a joke! The drain is a pain(in the rain in Spain[sorry]), but, manageable. I'm scared to have it yanked out tho! Some people say it hurts alot, some not so much. I've heard its a quick pain that only hurts for a moment.
Oh--speaking of "my size"...Rich and I ran into some friends at Walmart and we were talking about mastectomies (seems everyone knows someone who's had one). I said it might be easier to have them both removed, to help even things out. Rich looked at my chest and said in my case I might be walking around leaning to one side if I only have one removed, and then my friend mimicked how I might be walking. Funny guys--ha-ha...but really, it was good to laugh about it! Although I'm pretty sure my cheeks turned red!
Next week I will have my MUGA test for my heart on Tues., and then on Friday my 3 ct scans (chest, abdomen, and pelvic area), and bone scan. I should be glowing in the dark after all these tests are done! On either one of those days I will have an EKG too. I guess they don't have to schedule that. My gene test results should be in soon, and I need to meet with my surgeon too. Lots to do! I won't have surgery or chemo until after Alyssa's "wedding" (vow renewal and reception), which is May 23rd.
Okay--thanks for checking in, and thanks for listening--I feel better already!
Oh--Just wanted to mention that Shonna is singing at church tomorrow. Come and visit us at Bridgewood, if you'd like. :)
Love and blessings!