Sunday, June 22, 2014

A hysterectomy at 38

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  It is also the eve of what will be my 5th surgery in 11 months.  I have to be honest, I'm tired.  I was looking forward to a fairly uneventful summer to just spend time with my little family and have fun (which we have been doing for 3 weeks and I'm so grateful I've felt good).  The only surgery that was on my radar was my permanent implant surgery when I am ready.  Then, a few weeks ago I went to see my gynecologist about some issues I have been having since my period returned in April following chemo.  Painful, debilitating, heavy periods.  Yuck.  So, after speaking with my gynecologist, he suggested possibly doing an ablation but then said "if you are going to move forward with a hysterectomy, you should just do that, rather than having both procedures done".

A hysterectomy is something I've been considering since finding out I had cancer.  My tumor was Estrogen positive which basically means the more estrogen that's in my body, the higher likelihood I could develop cancer somewhere else (mainly female organs...ovaries, uterus, etc.)  I talked to several doctors (my oncologist, my breast surgeon, my gynecologist) about my risk factors, genetic history, etc. and got differing opinions.  It was frustrating.  I finally was referred to a gynecological oncologist who I saw 2 weeks ago.  Within 2 minutes of talking with me about my family history, the type of tumor I had, etc. he said "this is absolutely something you need to do".  Finally.  Someone wasn't wishy-washy or sugar coating anything.  He said that due to my young age (I know 38 isn't that young but when you're talking lifespan, it is), family history and tumor type, he would highly recommend getting a full hysterectomy (meaning everything comes out).  It's something that I was fairly certain I was going to do, so I wasn't in shock.  I wasn't expecting to do it this quickly but in order to be recovered by the time Shaun and I take our 15 year anniversary trip, I have to either do it now, or wait until August.  August brings back to school and a lot of other activities and when I have my last Herceptin on September 5th, I want to be done!  So, now it is.

The doctor thinks that I should do no activity for about 4-5 days and the total recovery is 6 weeks.  I should be able to drive and do somewhat normal activities after the first week.  He said it would be "a cake walk compared to your mastectomy."  He also said I would feel "like I got kicked in the gut by a horse for a few days".  Well, doesn't that sound fun?

The concern with me getting a hysterectomy is that I am not able do the hormone replacement therapy.  So, I will probably have some unwanted side effects.  They are side effects that I am actually already experiencing because of the drug Tamoxifen that I'm taking (and will take for 5 years).  The Dr. told me that there is a new drug that combats hot flashes that seems to work really well so, there's that.  Being in menopause at 38 is never something I imagined would happen to me.  But hey, I'll look on the bright side.  No more periods.  Yay!

I'm a bit nervous today.  You'd think I'd be a pro by now since I've had so many surgeries recently.  It's always unsettling.  What will I feel like when I wake up, how long will my recovery be, what will the side effects of this surgery be, etc.  These are the questions that repeat over and over in my head and keep me awake at night.

I look at this as just another part of my journey.  I'm doing what I need to do. Preventative measures that will hopefully keep me cancer free for the duration of my life.  And hey, I get to wear white whenever I want!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Post surgery update

Hi friends!  I wanted to update you all on what's happening with me.  I am 17 days post surgery and doing really well.  I have been doing everything my Dr. has been telling me to do (which is basically doing nothing).

I stayed in the hospital for 2 nights after surgery.  I was still having a quite a bit of pain on the day after surgery so they kept me for another night which I was thankful for.  I had surgery on February 14th (Happy Valentine's day to me) and went home on the 16th.  I came home to a recliner that has become my best friend over the last two weeks.  It used to be my grandma's and is one of those super cool chairs that lifts you up to a standing position and also reclines you to an almost laying down position.  It has come in very handy.

The best news after surgery came late on the night I came home when my breast surgeon called us (from Israel...he left the day after my surgery for a trip) and told us that all the pathology from my surgery came back clear.  That is what we were expecting but it felt so good to get that news!!!  Praise be to God!

My parents had the girls the first few days after surgery.  I needed someone to take care of me too so my good friend Amy came in from Mississippi to help me out.  She brought me food, helped me with my medications, gave me a bath with baby wipes, emptied my drains for me (I had four of them when I first came home), ran errands, and just hung out with me.  She stayed for 4 days and it was so helpful.  Thank you Amy - love you so much!

My mom had a trip planned before any of this cancer business happened so she had to leave a few days after my surgery.  So, my in laws came to stay with us and help out with the girls.  They were here for 10 days and were very helpful.  They took the girls to school and to all of their normal activities.  They also helped me out by doing laundry, dishes, etc.  It's so hard to ask for help.  This whole experience of cancer has made me so much better about joyfully accepting help.  People are bringing us meals every other night which is fantastic and so appreciated!

I spent the first week after surgery pretty much in my chair.  I would get up every 90 minutes or so as ordered by my Dr. to avoid blood clots.  I went to the Dr. 6 days after surgery and got 2 of my 4 drains out. It was nice but I was really wanting all of them out.  The Dr. said that if I continued to be good and not do anything, I could get them out the following Monday.  That weekend, I did nothing.  The more you are up and doing things, the more your drains will fill up with fluid and you will delay getting them out.  So, Monday, I called with my drain outputs and they told me to come in to get my drains out!  So, 10 days after surgery, I had all 4 out.  I was ecstatic.  I was told to expect to have them in for 2-3 weeks so this was a major triumph!  Having drains is disgusting, uncomfortable, and annoying.  I will avoid telling you the nasty details but just take my word for it.  You don't want drains.  Gross!

After getting my drains out, I was able to be a bit more comfortable.  I started getting up a little longer each day.  By Thursday (13 days after surgery), I got up and went up to my office and sat at my desk all day. Different chair but a change of scenery and I was able to catch up on some things I hadn't been able to do.  My in-laws left on Friday and my dad came to get the girls so I could rest over the weekend.  That is what I did and I am feeling really good today.  I am no longer taking any pain medications (I didn't even need ibuprofen today), was able to unload the dishwasher today, do 2 loads of laundry, and get a regular shirt on (not a button up).  Small things that feel like big victories!  I'm currently sitting at my desk catching up on both of my blogs and working on Julianne's slide show (her 6th birthday is Wednesday).  I'm venturing out tomorrow to go to the dentist (I haven't been out of the house in a week).  My mom is going to drive me because I am still not allowed to drive until Friday (even though I think I could).

Life is slowly returning to normal and this week I have an appointment at the cancer center for my Herceptin treatment.  I have not missed that place in the last 3 weeks.  Not really looking forward to going back there but it's got to be done.  I'll see my plastic surgeon on Thursday for another post-op check and hopefully get cleared to drive and resume some normal activities.

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for me over the last few weeks.  I am so blessed with the people in my life that are covering me in prayer.  It is working.  I'm nearing the end of this journey.  Thank you for being a part of it!  Blessings to you all!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The night before surgery

It's the night before surgery.  I'm terrified.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't.  I'm not terrified about the actual surgery, but mostly the aftermath.  Having a double mastectomy is a huge surgery.  With a long recovery. It's going to be painful, frustrating because I won't be able to do much, and hard for me because I hate having to rely on other people to do things for me.  Oh, and I hate giving up control of said things.  I won't be able to take care of the girls for weeks.  I won't get to take them to school because I can't drive for probably about a month.  I won't be able to hold them.  That stings the most.  Part of me is looking forward to having a break from the everyday.  I'm sure I'll get over that in about 2 days.  I am not the type to sit and do nothing. It's not my personality.  At all.  I'm usually always doing something.  This will be a huge challenge for me.  On the positive side, I'll be able to catch up on my DVR and maybe read a book or two!

But I know that this is the right decision for me.  I believe that 100%.  Shaun and I talked and talked about this.  I talked to countless doctors, did so much research and reading, and thought about it until I didn't want to think about it anymore.  This is the right thing to do.  Do I have to do it?  No, I don't.  But meeting four women during the course of my chemo that were on their second round of chemo because their breast cancer had returned either in the same or opposite breast helped convince me that this is what I should do. None of those women did for different reasons but after speaking to all of them, they all wish they would have.  I do not want this cancer to come back.  I do not want to do chemo again.  I will do whatever I can to take my percentage of getting recurring breast cancer down.  The breast surgeon told me that with a lumpectomy and chemo (what I already had done), my chances of recurrence are about 15%.  With double mastectomy, they are .5-1%  I hate percentages.  I was told when I originally found the lump and the radiologist read the ultrasound that typically, these types of things are only cancer about 25% of the time. And unfortunately, mine fell into that percentile.  I know there is no way to prevent my cancer from returning with 100% certainty.  It's just not possible.  But I will do everything possible to reduce the chances and to make sure that I am here for as long as possible.  And so, tomorrow, I will have a double mastectomy.  It almost doesn't feel real.  Like this isn't my life.  It's so bizarre.  It's part of my journey.  And so, I fight on....

Monday, January 27, 2014

Saying goodbye

2014 hasn't started off quite like I had hoped.  On January 2nd, I got a call that my grandma had been taken from her nursing home to the hospital because she was dizzy and just not feeling well.  She was admitted and it was determined that she had an e-coli infection, among many other problems.  

My grandma has been here in Northwest Arkansas where we live since my parents moved here two years ago.  It's been great having her so close.  The girls and I would go up to her nursing home as often as possible to see her and she loved spending time with the girls.  My grandma has been a very special person in my life.  Many of my childhood memories revolve around time spent with her and my grandpa.  They were salt of the earth people.  Genuine, kind, wise, hard working...I could go on and on.  My brother and I were their only two grandchildren (my dad is an only child) so we may have been a bit spoiled by them!  We lost my grandpa in 2004 which was extremely difficult on all of us.  My grandma's health has steadily declined since then but she seemed to be doing ok when I just saw her on Christmas eve and Christmas day.  Then to get a call a week later that she was in the hospital was surprising.  I couldn't go to the hospital that night because Shaun was still at work and I had the girls.  She was admitted to the hospital that Shaun works at so I got updates from him.  During the next few days, my dad was going to the hospital every day.  My grandma was asleep almost every time he went but did wake up occasionally.  The one time I went, she was asleep.  I didn't wake her.  I wish I would have.  In the middle of the night on January 8th, we got a call that my grandma had had a major stroke and was unresponsive.  Shaun and I rushed to the hospital and met my dad there.  She was in ICU and when I saw her, it hit me.  Shaun told me on the way there that she would probably not wake up again.  When I saw her, I knew that to be true.  The next several hours were spent in her ICU room watching all the machines (we thought she may go at any time).  We had a discussion with her Dr.'s the next day and they felt certain that there was no brain activity and that she would not recover, nor would she wake up again.  We made the difficult decision to move her to comfort care and transfer her to a hospice.  She was transferred the next day and we all went every day and held her hand, talked to her, played music for her, and waited.  I soon found myself praying that Jesus would take her.  Seeing a loved one in that kind of condition is not easy.  I knew she wouldn't want to be like that.  Family and friends came into town to say their final goodbyes and we lost my grandma in the early morning hours of January 15th.  

Words can't describe this loss for me.  I loved my grandma dearly.  I miss calling her and saying "hey gorgeous!"  I always greeted her that way and she got the biggest kick out of it.  She's been so worried about me the past couple of months.  It consumed her.  When I saw her on Christmas she said "honey, I'm just so worried about you."  I looked at her and said "Grandma, don't you worry about me.  I am doing just fine and I showed this cancer who's boss....I love you, don't worry about me"   Those were the last words I ever said to her (when I knew she could hear me).  There are so many other things I wish I would have said. If I had only known.  She knew how much I loved her.  I told her every time I saw her or spoke to her on the phone.  She knew.  I have comfort in that.

This is my favorite picture of me with my grandparents.  My wedding day.  They were so happy!

My gram and I at my baby shower.  She was so excited about Julianne's pending arrival!
The girls with my gram.  They would always have her push them around in her wheelchair.  It was good because it gave her some good exercise and the girls just loved it!
Grandma's wish was to be buried next to my grandpa.  We had her flown to California and my dad, brother and I went out to bury her this week.  It was hard.  I know she would have been so happy to know that the three of us were there.  She never wanted my dad to have to do that by himself.

Her beautiful casket
Right next to my grandpa.  Right where she belongs.
My brother and I.  We had so much fun telling some of our favorite grandma stories.
Two of my favorite guys.  My dad and my brother.

When I got home and went through my grandma's things with my parents I found her bible.  My dad let me have it.  It is filled with highlights, notes, bookmarks.  I can't wait to dive into it.  My grandma's faith is one of the things I admired most about her.
 I also took this.  She had it hanging in her room at the nursing home.  It was her favorite family picture of us all.  I'm searching for the perfect place to hang it.

Tell your loved ones you love them.  You just never know when it could be the last time.  I hate learning that lesson but it is an important one.  I love you grandma.  I can't wait to see you again in heaven.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  I don't think I've ever been more excited to say hello to a new year.  2013 was not kind to me. I know that 2014 will bring challenges as well (the big surgery is scheduled for February 14th) but I'm looking forward to getting on with it and moving on to better things!  

Shaun and I went out to dinner with some friends last night.  He had been up for about 22 hours and was so exhausted.  So after dinner he went home and I went to a party with some of my good friends!  We danced the night away and had a blast!  

May you have a blessed 2014!  Mine started off right celebrating with my sweet friends!

Goodbye 2013!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hi friends! Wanted to take a minute and wish you all a very merry Christmas.  I am slowly recovering from my last round of chemo (Dr. says it takes about 12 weeks post chemo to feel "normal" again).  I'm two weeks out and so very tired.  Not exactly what I wanted for Christmas but you know what?  I'm here.  Here to celebrate with my family and be with the ones I love.  That is the most precious gift I could have been given.  This year is not at all what I had expected.  My world got rocked.  I've been through something that I never imagined I could get through.  Through it all, I'm thankful.  Not thankful that I got cancer but just thankful.  This journey has shown me how many amazing people I have in my life.  It's what life is really all about.  I'm more appreciative than ever of the people I am blessed to have by my side.  So this Christmas, I am praising Him for the love that surrounds me.  I've never felt so loved in my entire life.  My prayer is that you are surrounded this Christmas by the people you love!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Last day of chemo!!!

I had my 6th and last chemo treatment today.  Hallelujah and Amen!  I can't even explain how good it feels to be done with this part of my journey!  When I was told that I had to have chemo I was devastated.  I didn't know what to expect and was scared beyond belief.  I didn't even know if I could do it.  Would I have the strength?  Would I be able to keep up with my responsibilities?  Could I do it without the girls knowing something was wrong?  All of those questions went through my head a thousand times a day.  There were horrible moments and days during chemo and the after effects of it.  But I did it.  I'm stronger than I thought I was.  The girls have asked questions about me not feeling well but overall, I think life stayed fairly normal for them which is a huge praise!  So, this is it.  My last day of chemo.  I will still continue to go for my Herceptin but that is not bad and has minimal side effects.  I will continue that every 3 weeks until August of 2014. That means more time at the cancer center which I don't love but I know it will go by so fast.  

On the way to chemo this morning
 Noting the date!!!
This is my sweet friend Laurie who came by for a bit today.  She and her husband lead our Sunday school class and she has been a huge blessing to me.
 Kelly came by too.  I just love her.  Such a gracious and sweet heart she has.  She is the real deal.
 This is my Marianne.  This girl has come to every single treatment with me and almost all of my Dr. appointments.  She came not only on chemo days but every single Thursday for my Herceptin treatments as well.  She is amazing.  I'm so thankful for her and her friendship.  She has been the kind of friend that everyone would wish to have (especially at a time like this).
 This is Marianne's husband Mike.  He came by for a few minutes too.  He is seriously one of the most genuine, sweet, kind-hearted people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
 This is Lenette.  She is a friend from church and has come to a few of my treatments.  She is kind and sweet and I just love her.  
 This is Dina.  Her youngest daughter and Julianne are the same age and were in the same class last year and have been in dance together for 2 years.  She's been so great to me and brought us the most amazing meal last week (during a snow storm).  She came by today and brought sparkling cider to celebrate! 

I'm so blessed with the friends that I have.  I'm so thankful for all of them!  I don't think I could have made it through this journey without their love and support.