Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prayers for the South

No matter what each of us is struggling with in our lives, let us each take a moment and offer prayers for the folks down South who have been devastated by this week's weather.

I remember vividly the aftermath of the 1999 Haysville tornado. Leaving the Haysville city building, walking outside and seeing the destruction. I remember the smell, the horrible smell of earth, of natural gas, of people's livelihoods; all mixed together in a giant horrific blender then poured out for the world to see. And the sounds, an eerie stillness with the occasional shout of a name, the screaming of natural gas lines that hadn't been shut off yet. I remember what was left of the convenience store across the street, the parking lot filled with fire trucks, ambulances & police cars. Red lights lighting the splinters that were left.

Dear Lord, keep your loving arms wrapped around those whose lives have been torn apart by this terrible tragedy. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Down the 'Donut Hole'

All aboard! Today's tour stop was the Lindsborg Community Hospital for a CAT scan. Exciting, right???

I am pretty lucky to live in a small community that has a nice hospital. Most of my treatment will take place in Salina, but I am able to have a lot of my pre-treatment tests conducted in Lindsborg. It's so nice to leave 5 minutes before a scheduled appointment rather than 20-30 minutes.

I don't know if any of you have had a CAT scan, but to me, it was like sliding in & out of a giant donut. The Homer Simpson section of my brain kept thinking, "Mmmmm....sprinkles...", but sadly there was not a single sprinkle to be found. Prep for the procedure started the night before when I was lucky enough to drink 6 gallons of 'barium sulfate solution.' Sounds yummy, right? I know you're jealous.  What this stuff actually tastes like is the orange baby aspirin stuff we were subjected to as kids, before medical geniuses figured out how to make medicine taste like candy. A little bit of this tasty technology would be helpful right about NOW! I knew it was going to appetizing because the illustration on the bottle was of the digestive system...funky tummy and intestines strung all over that label. Gross.

So in the morning, I again, had to drink 6 gallons of the junk. Joy!  Okay, so it wasn't 6 gallons, probably about 20 oz. each time, but when something tastes like that, it seems like 6 gallons. I arrived at the hospital and was led to the giant donut room and had to change into a gown. By this time I'm thinking that I need to buy my own gown & have it personalized, save the hospital staff some laundry time.

I spend the next hour being poked with a needle for the 3rd time in 3 days & surfing back & forth through the donut, holding my breath when the polite computer voice tells me to. Between the sentinel node test 2 weeks ago, the barium & the contrast solution they injected into me today I am filled with enough radioactivity to be glowing, or at least sprouting a 3rd eye somewhere.

By the end of the CAT scan ended I was so starved that I went to the grocery store for  - coffee & DONUTS! And so that concludes the medical portion of our tour for today! Watch your step as you leave the train & step on to the platform.

I wanted to include a picture of something my youngest drew the other day:
This is a chalk drawing he did on the sidewalk in front of our house. He said it's our future - the three of us, a house of our own with a fire place & chimney, a playhouse & an apple tree. 
This is why I'm fighting. 

He's only 5 and doesn't understand the impact that drawing has on me. I had to take a picture of it before the rain washed it away. I'll probably frame it, so the three of us can remind ourselves each day why we're fighting. 

Have a good night & God Bless!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away!

Roll up, roll up for the magical mystery tour, step right this way.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up (AND) THAT'S AN INVITATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up TO MAKE A RESERVATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away,
Waiting to take you away.

Great lyrics right? You can hear the song in your head as you read the words. Heck, maybe you even start to sing it a bit. Then you start to think about it and it becomes much more than just a fun Beatles song, its starts to have some meaning...we're all on a Magical Mystery Tour. Our reservations are made by a higher power and just by being born we're along for the ride. Well this blog is going to be about my ride. Good thing I always wear my seat belt, cause it's been bumpy and the road signs I've been reading all say "Caution! Curves Ahead!!"

On April 5, 2011, my life was turned upside town when I was told that I had breast cancer. At 35 with 2 small kids, this was an absolute nightmare. I put on a brave face and told everyone that "I was going to kick cancer's ass" but I was terrified.

I think my journey to diagnosis is very unusual, but a happy accident. Just over a month earlier, on Feb. 25th I had a laproscopic tubal ligation surgery. It was very routine, no big deal at all. I had the surgery on a Friday and by the next Tuesday my right armpit area was sore & tender. The soreness progressed until Thursday when it was painful. In the shower that morning I was feeling the area when I found a small lump in between my right breast & the armpit. I decided to call Dr. Bachamp, my OB/GYN, and have it checked, even though I had been there just a month earlier. She ordered a mammogram & sonogram, then referred me to a surgeon, Dr. Macy. He decided to remove the lump rather than do a needle biopsy. My lumpectomy was scheduled for March 31st. Neither doctors were worried about the lump, both believing that it would be benign.

The next Tuesday, April 5th my surgeon called and said the news was "Kind of a bummer, there was some cancer in the tumor."  Kind of a bummer......probably the biggest understatement I've ever heard. From that phone call, my parents and I were in his office just hours later to get a better understanding of what was going on and to schedule another surgery. (are you keeping track...this would be #3!) On the 7th I was back in the operating room, after a brief stop in radiology. Radiology did what they call a Sentinel Node dye test. Essentially they inject radioactive dye into the area where the tumor was removed, have me massage myself (yes, you're probably thinking the same inappropriate things that I am...), then use an x-ray to see if the dye worked itself into a particular lymph node. In my case, no such luck, which meant the removal of all the lymph nodes.

By this time I was comparing the radiology department to underground catacombs, or some complex bunker system. I was laying in a bed the whole time while my chauffeur, Justin wheeled me everywhere. It all started to blend in, I was thoroughly lost and they hadn't even given me drugs yet! After the x-ray, I was subjected to another 'procedure' where they inserted a metal wire into my breast area, marking where the tumor was previously removed. If it wasn't shocking enough to look down and see a wire/needle thingy sticking out of your boob, I was seriously unprepared for what came next. The techs covered the needle by taping a styrofoam cup over the needle, so I wouldn't bump it. Visions of Madonna & Lady Gaga were now in my head. I remarked to the techs that my bra cup size was now "8 oz."

A pause here to tell you, that if you don't know me, sarcastic, inappropriate & wickedly funny things sometimes come out of my mouth. I apologize if anyone is offended, but if you're that sensitive, you probably shouldn't be reading this!!! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Okay, so now I'm back at surgery waiting, showing of my new accessory to my parents & boyfriend, who didn't know whether to laugh, cry or be offended. Humor is my weapon, so I use it often. Just a short stop here so the lovely anesthesiologists can mercifully drug me before I am wheeled down yet another hall and into the operating room where, by the way, it is freezing. I remember the mask being over my mouth for about 7 1/2 seconds and then nothing until I wake up in recovery and my right side is on fire. I usually try to tough out the pain, but man, this was bad. I remember at least 2 shots of morphine, but there may have been a third, who knows at this point.

Now we're moving again, wheeling me up to my room. This surgery was a lot more invasive than the other two, so I get to be an over-night guest of Salina Regional Health Center. Good thing too, because I was seriously out of it. When the nurses had to get me up to move to the bed in my room I'm pretty sure I cried. My side was screaming, maybe I was too. So there I lay, drifting in and out, quite sure I was talking to myself at times, trying to figure out what they could have done to me to make it so painful. When I became more lucid I discovered that I had a new friend - a drain bag which was eventually named Herbie.

This is getting really, really long, isn't it? Sorry!

So, recovery @ hospital, then recovered 2 days at my parents house. Now fast forward to Tuesday, April 12th when I get another "bummer" from the surgeon - cancer found in 12 of the 29 lymph nodes they removed. I spent that afternoon in a puddle created by yours truly. The next day was better and by Thursday the 14th we were back in Dr. Macy's office to get the full lab report. Although the news is still bad, Dr. Macy believes that he got all of the cancer that was present and a lot of healthy tissue surrounding it, just to be sure. Surgically, there's nothing else he can do, so I get an appointment with an oncologist, Dr. Johnson, who is HIGHLY recommended. All of my doctors are wonderful people and talented physicians, all highly recommended by other patients & hospital staff.

Yesterday, the 20th I met Dr. Johnson and I have decided that I love him. He is very plain spoken, not a whole lot of "doc talk" with him. He mapped out a treatment plan, literally - he made me a diagram of what tests, treatments & how long they will take. What a wonderful resource! So now, we're moving along pretty well. Had blood drawn today, have a CAT scan tomorrow, 2-D echo on Monday, catheter for Chemo inserted on Monday & a bone scan on Tuesday.

Chemo should start around May 4th. Waiting is the hardest part, but looking at the calendar, we have wasted no time in getting on the road to recovery, starting the next leg of the Magical Mystery Tour.

More later, I don't want to bore you now. I promise to keep this updated. And I will REALLY TRY to not make posts this long ever again!
Feel free to comment, but keep it positive!!! I've no time for Negative Nellies on this journey!!

Buckle up & have a safe trip!