The Real New "DO"

These are "REAL" friends

Wigs

Wigs
Maddie having a little fun!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Too Long

Wow!  It has been way too long since I updated my blog.  I hope you will forgive  me!  Ever heard the old adage:  "no news is good news"?  I guess I will claim that as my excuse.  Also, I have been able to see most of you and let you see for yourself how things are!!  I am doing GREAT!!  Don't get me wrong - I have my "freak out" moments when I feel like whatever ache or pain I am having is cancer returning.  I try really hard to "let go, and let God".  Most days it works really well.  I am currently 8 months (next Wednesday, May 2) cancer-free!  WOOHOO!  One of my favorite songs is by Natalie Grant - Your Great Name.  There is a phrase in the song that says:   "Redeemer, My Healer, Lord Almighty, My Savior, Defender, You are my King".  I especially love the healer part.   God would still be amazing no matter what He chose to do with my cancer, but I must say, I'm pleased with His plan so far.

My family and I took a phenomenal trip to Washington, D.C. over spring break.  If you have never been, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I really couldn't tell you who had more fun between the four of us.  We took congressional tours of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, the Capitol, the Pentagon, the Library of  Congress (not the girls favorite), and the National Archives.  We visited a couple of the Smithsonian (there are 19 total) museums.  We spent a day at Mount Vernon, Washington.  We had tons of fun riding all around on the metro.  It was VERY obvious to those around us that we were tourists.  The cherry blossom trees were already budding and beautiful.  We visited many of the memorials (Lincoln, Jefferson, WWII, Pentagon, Vietnam).  I was able to reconnect with a couple of friends (one from childhood and the other from college) that live in the area.  It was fantastic to see them and meet their families.  We must have walked 8-10 miles per day, but, for the most part, we didn't even realize how tired we were until we were back at our hotel in Georgetown and ready for bed.   We did sleep well every night.  I hope you will take the trip with your family one day and experience it for yourself.

I think I  have bored you enough, but I want to share one more thing with you.  I prayed all through my journey that I could be a witness to people of God's faithfulness no matter what result (another favorite song by Kerrie Roberts).  I was able to do that with chemo nurses, technicians, surgeons, etc.  After my surgery, I began to pray for the opportunity to encourage others who are going through something similar to my journey.  Wow - I liken that to praying for patience.  Do you really want it?  NO!  I have had two particular ladies in my life since January (one for longer) that have really tested my faith and my belief in God as healer.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, I am struggling.  I firmly believe that He knows what He is doing and that God is still God, but I have a hard time with such young ladies (29 and 41) and more recently a 3rd grade child having such health issues.  I will ask you to join me in praying for complete healing for both of these ladies and the little boy.  You don't need to know their names, because God already does.  Thank you for your continued prayers for me, my health, and my family.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

9 days later

Okay - I must admit - I was fully expecting to have little or no recovery with the 2nd surgery.  Any of  you who have seen me since last Tuesday afternoon (surgery) know that I am very disappointed.  My expectations were unrealistic and I am having a hard time swallowing my recovery being slower than I'd hoped.  The plastic surgeon did his revision of my reconstruction which took about 2 hours (he had to give me 2 drains again) and the gynecologist did a full hysterectomy (ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus), which took about an hour.  I came home Wednesday evening after waiting all day for my plastic surgeon to come by.  Finally at about 3, the nurse called his office.  He said I could go ahead and go home, because he wouldn't be able to make it by.  Really??? Couldn't have told me a little sooner???  Oh well.
Once home, I began the recovery process.  It was once again hard to stand and sit (just not as hard as after the first surgery), hard to find a comfortable position to sleep, and just all around to move.  O JOY!  I went happily to my 8th grade daughter's band concert Thursday night - it was very painful but well worth it.  On Friday, the plastic surgeon's nurse was able to take out the drains which definitely added to a better  night's sleep.
Today is Thursday and it has been 9 days since surgery.  I saw the plastic surgeon on Tuesday.  He gave me a few options.  I could be completely done with the reconstruction or there are a few more things I could do (I guess plastic docs are never fully satisfied).  Since one of those options would include another surgery, I told him I am just not ready for that again.  Just say NO to surgery.  He assured me this particular surgery would be a day surgery, but I still said not right now.
After leaving his office, I stepped across the hall where my gynecologist's office is located.  I wanted to see if I could ask the nurses a quick question about some swelling I noticed.  Fortunately, another patient had cancelled and they were able to get me in to see the doctor (I didn't think it was necessary, but nevertheless...).  He quickly let me know that everything looked just like it was supposed to.  He also told me that he had gotten the pathology on my ovaries and they were cancer-free.  YEAH God!!
Now it is time to just give my body time to completely heal.  There is still quite a bit of swelling that may take as long as 3 months to resolve itself.  As far as inside, my lower abdominal organs are looking for a new home.  The rest of my torso is just trying to adjust to my new "normal".  I think it may take a while, so pray for patience for me.  I am ready to exercise again, drive again, and just overall, have a normal life again.  I can never thank you enough for your meals, rides, encouraging words, and most of all, your prayers.  God is good, all the time!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

2nd Surgery Scheduled

After meeting with the gynecologist and coordinating with my plastic surgeon, my second surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18, at 12:30 pm.  I will be at Memorial Hermann Memorial City again for the surgery and will have an overnight stay (hopefully just one).  My plastic surgeon will perform his part of the surgery first (approximately 2 hours) and then the gynecologist will perform the hysterectomy (approximately 1 hour).  The gynecologist told me last week that I was no longer a candidate for laproscopy.  He told me that since I had the abdominal surgery, he didn't feel like it would be best to do the hysterectomy laproscopically.  At first, I was disappointed, but he quickly told me that he would only have to make a 1-2 inch incision and that all of his work could be done through that incision.  He also told me that my recovery time would be much the same as if it had been done laproscopically.  I was happy with that news!!  I'm fairly certain this hospital stay will just be on a regular floor.
I also met with Dr. Holmes, my oncologist, yesterday.  She was "giddy" with the news from pathology.  She indicated that of the 0.5 cm mass that was left in the breast, the cells were so sickly and shriveled up that the pathology department couldn't do a complete study on them.  She was thrilled because that means the cancer cells responded extremely well to the chemotherapy.  Her excitement matched mine, so we were quite a sight!  She feels certain that the cancer is gone!  After three years, if nothing reappears, she told me I would be considered "CURED".  Those words were overwhelming!  What a gracious Lord we serve!  I don't think this has all sunk in to my thick skull yet, but I know it will soon!  I have to go back to the oncologist every 3 months for blood work and an exam for the next year.  The second year it will move to every 4 months, then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th year, every 6 months.   I will continue to rely on a great team of doctors throughout this time period.  More than that, I rely on the God of the universe, who made me fearfully and wonderfully!  Keep praying!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pathology Results

I met with my breast surgeon, Dr. Pollack, yesterday to discuss the results of pathology from surgery.  The news was FABULOUS!!  There was no evidence of malignancy in either (they only removed two) of the lymph nodes and the mass from the right breast was only 0.5 cm in size.  There was no evidence of cancer in the left breast.  I am sure that once I go to the oncologist on September 30, she will discuss the results more in detail, but for now, I am thrilled!! What a mighty God we serve!! 
I would love for you guys to pray for comfort while sleeping.  I have had to sleep on my back since surgery two weeks ago.  I have just about had it with that.  I can no longer get comfortable on my back so I am exploring ways to sleep on my side without it causing too much pain.  Last night, I was not successful, but I am hopeful each  night will get better.  Thanks friends!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Experience

Friday morning, September 2, 5:00 AM.  I had already showered the night before and cleaned myself with some kind of wipes that leave your body feeling very sticky.  When the alarm went off on Friday morning, I was as ready as I would ever be.  I still had not fully comprehended what would be happening once at the hospital.  We arrived at the hospital a little after 6 and went to the nuclear medicine floor.  They had to inject nuclear medicine into the right breast so that once I was in surgery, they would be able to detect if any or how many lymph nodes were affected by the cancer.  I was holding myself together pretty well at this point.  After we finished there, the nurse took us down to the surgical floor (2nd), so I could be prepped for surgery.  As we signed in, we were very pleasantly surprised to already see 5 men there waiting for us.  Some of Brian's men's life group and one of our ministers from church had been waiting since 6 to see us.  It was seeing all of these men there in support of Brian and myself that caused me to "loose it".  We all prayed and then they took me back to prepare me for surgery.  The next hour passed in a bit of a blur.  I saw the anesthesiologist, answered lots of questions for the nurses, got the IV started, saw both of my doctors, and then was allowed a few visitors before going into surgery.  My pastor was one of them.  What a wonderful church we have that people will make time to let you know they care no matter how busy they are.  We are truly blessed!  Thanks Men's Life, Larry B., and Dr. Brooks!  You were more helpful than you could ever imagine.  At 8:04, they began the anesthesia and told me I would get a little sleepy.  I mentioned the lights were starting to "swim" and that is the last thing I remember until as I was being rolled out of surgery, and I asked the nurses what time it was and was told 10:00 PM.  I was beyond thrilled.  God answered our prayers!!  I had been in surgery for 14 hours and knew that meant my lymph nodes were cancer free.  Praise God!! Brian told me that Baylor had beaten TCU - I couldn't believe it, but was of course, thrilled. 
From there, I was taken to SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit) and began my 4 day stay.  At the direction of the doctor, I was under a "warmer".  It reminded me of a long skinny floatie you use in the swimming pool to lounge on.  It had a large hole that they hooked up a hose to that was blowing warm air constantly.  They placed a blanket over it to hold it in place.  The purpose of the warmer was to keep my blood flowing so that in the new area (flap), the blood would not slow down, possibly clot, and cause the flap to die.  The SICU nurses were instructed to come in every hour and listen for arterial and venous blood flow on both of the flaps.  The hourly checks would continue until Sunday night; at that point, they went to every two hours.  So between the hourly checks and the warmer (I am naturally very hot  natured and don't sleep with much cover), I didn't get much sleep for a while.  That was the reason I asked to not have any visitors.  I was a mess!!  I also had 4 drains that needed to be emptied each day (two for the breasts and two for the abdomen).  On Saturday morning, just 12 hours after surgery, I was able to get up out of bed and into a chair that sat next to my bed (with LOTS of  help).  I sat up for an hour and then got back into the bed.  That task alone was exhausting!!  I repeated the task at about 10 PM that night.  By Sunday, I was up and into the chair 3 times and doing a little more walking.  One of the first things I noticed on Saturday morning was how swollen I was.  The explanation given for that was the amount of anesthesia I had been given.  They started IV fluids immediately to flush all of it out of my body.  My oldest daughter thought it was the weirdest thing.  The way she described it was that my hands looked all soft and that there were no wrinkles for my knuckles.  I was thankful that I had not worn my wedding ring, because they would have had to cut it off of me.  After a few days, my swelling in my non-IV hand went down.  By Monday, the nurse started an IV in my right hand in order to alleviate the swelling that remained in my left hand.  It made a huge difference!  My feet however continued to stay swollen - probably because I had "leg squeezers" on both legs and a blood pressure cuff on my left leg.  It was difficult to get my shoes on when we left the hospital. 
My doctor released me from the hospital on Tuesday.  Being home has been wonderful!  Each day,  my mobility and ability to do things for myself has improved.  I still have one drain in and am hopeful to have it removed tomorrow when I see the doctor again.  Everything feels funny - my entire torso.  I understand that is very normal.  I am standing a little straighter every day but am still not completely straight.  I have to wear this awful "girdle" thing to hold every thing together nice and tight.  I DO NOT enjoy it.  I can't imagine how ladies wore them all the time in the "olden days".  I am ready to be released from it, but unfortunately, I don't think it will be for a while. 
I will meet with my breast surgeon this Thursday to discuss pathology results of the one lymph node they removed and any cancer that may have been left in the breast.  We are praying for good reports.
My plastic surgeon says there is a phase 2 surgery in which he will reshape the breasts and make them look more "normal".  He says it will only last an hour or two and that maybe he can coordinate it with  my hysterectomy surgery.  That way I only have to be under anesthesia again once.  My hysterectomy will most likely be done laproscopically.  This surgery will be mid to late October - depending on my recovery.  I will keep you updated on that . 
Thank you for all you are doing for my family.  When I asked my Mom what she had done the entire day of surgery, she said she visited all day with all of you that came to the hospital.  That means more to me than words can describe.  Thank you for being so supportive of Brian and my Mom and for taking care of my girls throughout this ordeal.  Thank you for being rides for the girls now that I can't drive and for bringing meals again.  You all are wonderful!!  Please feel free to come for a visit - I would love the company.  I am up all day at this point and take very few naps.  If you would like to call to make sure, please do.  Please don't feel like you would be a bother - it is quite the opposite.  I think the company would help me heal faster!!  Hope to see you soon!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chemotherapy is DONE!!

Lord willing, I had my last chemotherapy on Wednesday of last week.  Many of you already know that and have celebrated with me.  HIP!! HIP!!  HOORAY!!  I just wanted to give you an update of things and calendar of when things are scheduled.  This week is full of doctor appointments:  plastic surgeon for lots more details on surgery; cardiologist to make sure my heart handled chemo well and will handle surgery well; another visit with the oncologist (without the chemo); and blood work/pre-op stuff in preparation for surgery.  The surgery is scheduled for Friday, September 2 at Memorial City Memorial Herrmann Hospital.  I have to check in at 6:00 AM with surgery to start at 8:00.  The breast surgeon has told me that her part of the surgery will take approximately 2 hours.  The plastic surgeon is doing what is called a DIEP flap reconstruction.  He will make a cut from hip to hip and remove the area below the waist to use for reconstructing the breasts (in essence, a tummy tuck - a good part to all of this).  He then has to re-tie all the blood vessels together for the new breasts - this, apparently, is a very tedious and difficult process.  The reconstruction part of the surgery will take anywhere from 8-12 hours, depending on how my blood vessels respond.  We, again, are praying believing they will all work well.  After surgery, I will be admitted into ICU for 24 hours or more.  The reason for that is the nurses have to check on me every hour to make sure the blood flow is working correctly.  In ICU, there is a one-to-one patient/nurse ratio (or at least a lower ratio).  The plastic surgeon told me I would be in the hospital for 3-7 days.  I won't know for sure what to expect at home until I have further discussion with the plastic surgeon this week.  I will try to post one more time before surgery.  My care calendar is back up for those of you who would like to help in those areas.  Please continue to pray that the pathology comes back indicating that the cancer is gone.  Thank you for your love and concern for my family through all of this.  It would be much more difficult without incredible friends like each of you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Surgery Date

I finished #10 out of 12 treatments and now have my surgery scheduled for Friday, September 2 at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital.  I met with the breast surgeon this last week and she explained a bit of what she will be doing during the surgery.  In essence, the first thing they will do is inject a nuclear medicine in order to check the lymph nodes on the side of the tumor.  If any of them are "hot", they will remove them.  If I understand correctly, there are 1-3 sentinel (sp?) lymph nodes they will remove anyway on that side.  They will only remove others if they show up as having cancer in them.  We are praying that none of the lymph nodes are affected.  Thankfully, none of the doctors I have seen, whether it be oncologists or surgeons, have ever suspected the lymph nodes to be involved.  We will pray that is the case.  After the breast surgeon removes the breast with the tumor, she will move to the other side and begin work there.  She told me that at that time, the plastic surgeon can come in and get started if he chooses.  They could both be working at the same time - WOW!!  The plastic surgeon did tell me that  if any of the lymph nodes are affected, he would most likely not do reconstruction on the same day so as to allow me to have further treatments if necessary.  Again, we are praying, believing, that will not be the case. 
I meet with the plastic surgeon on the 23rd of August and will get lots more detail from him about his part.  He is the one that will do most of my follow-up care.  I won't bore you (or disgust you) with the details of his part. Just know that I will need lots of prayer throughout this whole process.  After I meet with him, I will give you a brief synopsis of what I am to expect.  I do know that the breast surgeon told me to follow his instructions to the letter in order to recover properly.  She told me that the biggest problems recovering come from trying to get up and do things too soon.  I intend to do exactly as the doctor says (even though I am extremely stubborn and tend to not follow instructions well).  :) 
Once I have surgery, I will need lots of help with meals and rides for my girls to after school  activities for a while.  I will find out once I meet with the plastic surgeon  more of the details, but I'm guessing I won't be driving for over a month.  If you are willing to be a weekly ride (piano, flute, dance, church, etc.) for my girls,  just let me know and I will sign you up.  The care calendar will go back into full swing once I have my surgery.  I'm blessed to have  such wonderful friends.  Thank You!!