Monday, May 31, 2010

no meat for mama.....

The cancer saga continues with me becoming a vegetarian. I have been doing a little research, by that I mean, a light scanning of various books. I don't really have the capacity for real research so after perusing numerous books given to me, becoming a vegetarian seems like the most supportive choice for my body during the upcoming challenges.

Now quitting meat is not the easiest thing I have done. I have been comparing it to quitting cigarettes. Meat is like heroin, only with the stamp of social approval. That's right almost everybody eats meat. There are lots of thought in popular culture about the need for us to eat meat the bumper sticker that first comes to mind is "7 days without meat makes one weak". That's right folks the stuff that makes us strong, is meat, and won't I need my strength while embarking on the biggest fight of my life? Well here in lies the problem, popular culture and nutritional needs for our bodies are not necessarily on the same plane. I have pretty much been a meat eater my entire life. I have had brief stints without meat the longest being 16 days and that was this year. In the span of my lifetime that really isn't a stint, more like choosing to not have cigarette until my second cocktail. I had never given it much thought but meat has been a part of my life on a daily basis. Like brushing your teeth, and making your bed, meat is completely habitual. Now mind you I am not a raging carnivore. I have had many meat free meals, and probably many meat free days through out my life. Mostly though I have had some form of meat daily for the majority of my life.

Needless to say I miss my old friend Meat. I stopped eating Meat on Corbin's birthday, I like to remember anniversaries and I can always use the date as a source of added strength. Mother's can do anything for their children and if I feel like falling off the butcher block I can always remember how much I am willing to endure for my children. Sounds like a good plan right. The downside to all this is food is in my blood. I have worked in restaurants all my life and I have become somewhat of a foodie. The good news is I love vegetables, the bad news is I love Meat just as much. Food to me is like a palette for the palate, meat is a primary color along with dairy, fruit and vegetables. Rice of course would be my canvas of choice, but I am also a fan of pasta and bread. It has been 4 days since I have had meat and I feel like I am having the DT's. I longingly look at a steak knife and want a fillet mignon. Clouds take the shapes of hamburgers and hot dogs. Fried chicken lurks at every corner and a KFC commercial sends me into the darkness. Sausage gravy is magical and on Chicken Fried Steak it is transformed into a direct link to the heavens, a giant flaky white flour biscuit being it's spring board into the stars. Then there is seafood, does it get more pure then a shrimp cocktail, what about broiled halibut, whole fried tilapia is a favorite in my family, but on healthy days we will eat it steamed. Not to mention crispy beef and crab puffs, I have so many old friends to say goodbye to. I could always eat my share of vegetables, but they have always been partnered with my old friend Meat and it was always such a beautiful dance. I still cook sausage links for the boys, it takes all the will power in the world to not just polish off 1/2 a pound, oh salty, nitrates how I miss you so.

Like most quitters I substitute, I took up running the time I seriously quit smoking, it made perfect sense. Breathing in exchange for smoking, a fair trade and the endorphins, along with the need to breathe kept me off the cigs for many years, throw in pregnancy for a few years and I was a true quitter. Fast forward to my break-up with Meat, to fill the void left behind, I have re-connected with my love for Cheetos and potato chips. I have used unhealthy snack foods to try to "fill up this hollow, won't stop all the aching". I think that is a lyric from a Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers song. That's right my break-up with meat has driven me to cheesy romance songs, if I ever quote Phil Collins someone please come over immediately.

The way I see it horrible snack foods will help me get past the first stages of meat withdrawal, the birthday party left me with a small supply of junk food, (timing is everything in life). Upon completion of my junk food stash, I will fill my cupboards with nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables all things healthy and good for you. Pray for my children, they are on the front lines, it is their food I may snatch up if my will falters. Rest assured I will try to convert my children into eating better, but I know that their are only so many miracles handed out to households so I am trying to pick mine :)

Now in all seriousness I have been trying to get my family to eat better for some time. I have been trying to minimize processed foods, eliminate high fructose corn syrup, and eat more simply, more whole foods and organic when I can. Like most things, if it was easy more people would be able to do it. We are a convenience culture and nothing makes a single mom's life easier then a dino-nugget, I even eat them. My goal is to change my family's diet for the majority of the time in favor of the healthy. My diet through chemo will be lots of fresh fruits and veggies with grains thrown in. There will always be room in our life for a funnel cake at the fair or fry bread on the square, at least they can be meat-free.

I can't change the name of the blog at this point but it might say eat lots of rabbit food and of course, drink water and breathe................

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some weeks are longer then others..........

That of course is not always a bad thing. This week has been full of all kinds of goodness, still exhausting but goodness.

Monday my friend Annie drove me to see Dr. Berardi. We have known each other for 22 years. She is one of those friends who I don't see that often, and I was so lucky to be able to have 5 hours to just connect with her. It was awesome, we laughed and talked the whole way down and back. We will still need a few more trips to get totally up to speed. We arrived early to the Dr.'s office and we were finished and leaving by the scheduled appointment time. It is so nice that these Dr. visit are so timely it makes them a little easier to handle. I officially have 2 breast mounds as Dr. B likes to refer to them. My left mound has 375 cc of saline while my right mound has 125 cc. I am still totally off balance, but my mounds should be equalized in 3 or 4 more visits.

The heart ultrasound came back normal so chemo is a go on June 3rd. What a relief it would really be a bummer if I had a bad ticker too...

I worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at the restaurant. I still do not have my stamina back and definitely am not performing up to my normal standards. Thankfully it hasn't been to busy and we have had some extra help to cover my slack.

Thursday was the Official start of Summer in the Rouette home. Not only was it the last day of school but it was also Corbin's 6th birthday. Days don't get much better then that for a kid. I spent the morning in the kindergarten classroom. It is amazing to see how all the kids have grown this year. They were exchanging phone numbers, planning play dates, and getting wound up in anticipation for summer. There was a sizzle in the air at the school and I have to say it was kind of fun. For the first time my family is a part of that sizzle. For quite some time summer break meant very little to me. One year of school under our belts and I have a completely different perspective. It is nice to not have to rush the kids and myself out the door in the morning. Summer will give us a little more flexibility on the home front which we could all use.

There is of course the work factor. I do have to get the kids into the right frame of mind to hang out at the restaurant a couple of days a week. Some days that is more challenging then others. For those of you with kids you know that last sentence could actually translate to "Absolute Hell" only on some days though. Isn't that how life works though? Challenges move from one aspect of your life to another, I am beginning to think that is part of the balance of the universe. Lately the key feels like accepting these challenges with a light heart. I am hoping to only need to take them to the restaurant a couple days a week. That will help me and also not bore them to death. We will see how the summer goes.

Corbin had one of the funnest birthday parties this year. It was at the YMCA gymnastics department on Saturday afternoon. This was the first time I had a party at a "venue" and I have to say the kids had a blast. The Y provides a couple of coaches which helps a ton, the fee was worth every penny. I also have a great family and friends network that helped me get all the other party details in place. I am still kind of reeling with the idea that I have a 6 year old and that he is going to be in 1st grade next year. Hooray for Corbin and a fun kick-off to summer.

Today was spent recovering from a week that was filled with too much fun. We stayed in our PJ's until noon. The boys then decided to take the 1st plunge of summer in the pool at the apartment complex. I don't know what the temperature of the pool was, but it definitely felt like snow run off to me. When you are 6 and 4 that just doesn't really matter. The boys got to play with some neighbor kids, this is what summer is all about. There is that fuzzy feeling again of relaxed summer fun. I had another friend stop by for a nice visit this afternoon. Then the neighbor kids came back for some fun and supper. This is what summer is supposed to feel like, kind of punch drunk off life and the little things.

This is living, drink water and breathe..........

Sunday, May 23, 2010

whacky weather in our town......

I don't really know where I live anymore. It is May 23rd and the wind has not stopped blowing all day. I don't know what the temperature was but it was cold today I needed a fleece to stay warm. The last day of school is Thursday and it doesn't even seem like we even need the summer clothes yet. The wind is one of those elements that tends to get under my skin after to long. I am not sure why, maybe it is the unpredictable nature of the wind. Perhaps it is the pressure it carries as it passes through, maybe it's all the loose debris it stirs up. The wind also has the power to exhaust, not just me, but the boys too. The boys crashed around 7:45 and it probably would have been early if it was just a touch darker.

We spent the day with friends which was nice. We had a femo clay party at a neighbor's this morning. The afternoon was spent at a fun filled five year old boy's birthday party this afternoon. There is something about a pack of children and birthday cake which makes my heart sing. Childhood is suppose to be a joyous time, and to watch the boys run and have so much fun with their friends gives me a feeling of peace. It is even fun for me, my family has attended this "party" probably 40 times. The hostess changes, the birthday kid changes, the cakes change (shelley you raised the bar this year), the food changes (in the future kale salad will be the main dish and hotdogs will be just a blissful memory, Danny nice work on the grill:) and the games change (pinatas have been replaced by trampoline mosh pits, and of course the highly sophisticated treasure hunt.) hell even the venues have changed. No two parties have ever really been alike, time has it's way of changing the details. The core group of women (I like to refer to us these days as the Mommy Mafia) is usually in attendance with their families in tow. Every time I attend this "party" it is like putting on my favorite pair of jeans. Being a part of this group of families is one of the great joys of my life and every time I leave one of these parties I realize how blessed I am. Friendship and acceptance are such amazing gifts we are all so lucky to have.

The week ahead is busy, tomorrow a visit to my favorite, Dr. Berardi. Time to put some more fluid in my expanders. My old friend Annie is driving me to Scottsdale, I won't be ready to drive in the city for probably another week or so. To be honest I have been loving the company, long drives with old friends are food for the soul. I am also preparing to host a "party" of my own. I can't believe my own baby is turning 6 years old. Lots of details to wrap up with the last week of school and all. Then of course there is work, life never slows down.

My strength has not completely returned and the wind took it out of me today. Healing takes place at a party surrounded by friends,and I drink water and breathe................

Saturday, May 22, 2010

4 weeks since my surgery

Time certainly does fly. Four weeks ago yesterday I was being prepped for surgery, quite possibly the scariest day of my life. Now here I sit in my perfect apartment feeling better then ever. My strength is starting to return, the mobility in my arms is improving slowly but surely. The pain in my right arm has subsided. I am adjusting to all the foreign objects on my chest. The chest expanders and port kind of feel like I have a shirt on that is a too tight (not the stretchy kind) sometimes I notice it and sometimes I don't. My brain is a little foggy something I really hadn't noticed until I started getting busier, I am feeling a little scattered at times. Some say this could be residuals of the general anesthesia . Healing takes time and the energy comes from so many places. The human body is miraculous and can thrive under so many conditions. I am grateful for my body and the speed at which I am recovering.

This week I felt strong enough to return to work. I work in my mother's small restaurant. I may have the best job in the world, the pay is not the greatest but the rewards are many. Normally my job requirements are serve food, chop vegetables (LOTS of vegetables), prep appetizers, help mom cook when necessary and kind of hang out all day with our wonderful customers. I was responsible for lots of stuff, it wasn't necessarily hard work, just busy doing all sorts of things throughout the day. My post surgery abilities currently allow me to only serve food and visit with customers, that is pretty much it. That was the easy part of my job, the other part was important to help my mom out. I am sure my stamina will return, so until then my niece Kate has joined the team and is helping out. I love that my niece will be around more, she is an amazing young woman who I don't get to see enough of.

It was so nice to see all of my family/friends/customers, in my eyes there really aren't lines between these groups they are just all a big group of love, one that nourishes my spirit every moment. I am eternally grateful for all of you and blessed to have each of you in my life. The connection that I have to people around me is anchored in my belief of complete love and acceptance for ALL people, NO EXCEPTIONS. I am diligently working on the exceptions which of course is my great life lesson. Life takes work, but when you are on the right path it is not so hard, blessings rain on us at every moment and sometimes when we get out of the way, we can allow true healing to begin. This by no means means that I am this calm zen like being that is enlightened all of the sudden. Love is my core, the rest of me can still be engaging, fiery, provocative, woman that you all know and love. Balance is something I have been seeking for a long time, and it seems I am getting closer.

My mission it to relax and trust that everything is happening exactly as it should be.
Drink water and breathe.........

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Then there were none, oh yeah and I am totally lopsided

I went to visit Dr. Berardi yesterday and he removed my last two drains. Nothing says freedom like not having to look at weird fluids coming out of your body through plastic tubes. The JP drains were never REALLY painful just a weird inconvenience, they had to be drained and cleaned and they kind of just got in the way of everything.
Now the fun part begins, he examined the incision from last Wednesday's surgery and decides to start filling the reconstruction spacer in my right breast. I am ready for the right side to match the left. At the original surgery on April 23 he put 300cc of saline in my left breast, that makes for a little mound. My right breast flap had no saline due to the complications from the scar tissue of the original biopsy. So out comes the needle and he jabs it into my chest, and I don't feel a thing. Sometimes nerve damage is a blessing. So now my right mound has 50cc of saline, which hardly gives it any shape at all, but it's a start. Then my dear Dr. injects 25 cc into my left breast....I'm like noooooo I want them to balance. Apparently the tissue needs to be stretched regularly for the best results, or my doctor is messing with me. It will probably take 4 or 5 weeks for my new breast mounds to be close to each other in size, and then of course after that the sky is the limit....
So if you notice a hot mama walking in a counter clockwise circle out in public (think Zoolander) you may have spotted me, I am feeling stronger every day and am starting to leave my sanctuary for a few little errands other then Doctor appointments. I may try to return to work for some light duty towards the end of the I get stronger and busier I tend to loose sight of my mantra and I gently remind myself to come back to center, drink water and breathe..........
it works!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's official.....I have Two Primary Cancers

I met with my Oncologist (the guy in charge of my chemo-therapy) on Thursday May 6th, I have been unable to post about my chemo part of this journey because I needed it to settle in a bit. To be honest I was kind of un-prepared emotionally for this visit. Not that there is a right way to prepare for cancer. I realized that chemotherapy was yet another level into the unknown that I would be traveling into. This next leg of my cancer journey was not the easy trip to to Thompson Peak Spa, this is the endurance part of the race and I have to say I was exhausted just previewing the course.

People wonder if chemo is optional, the answer is yes. All cancer treatment is optional, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, supplements even dietary changes. What I have gathered so far is that each person's cancer responds differently to treatment. Surgery and chemotherapy offers the best comprehensive fight that western medicine recommends for my 2 types of cancer. No one can guarantee the outcome, they can only do what is proven most effective and see how my body responds.

Surgery was kind of the easy part. The cancer was identified in various parts of my body, lucky for me those part were no longer the most important parts. If it had been my voice box, or my brain well that would have been another journey. After surgery, the miracle begins, the body that has been mine for 36 years, slowly begins to recover. The results are kind of astonishing, I went from barely being able to move, to walking, to a little light house work, even driving a few blocks. This part of the journey though new to me was familiar, I am still doing it with my body, my old friend that gave birth to my two beautiful boys, nursed them for three years straight, the body I trained to run a 10K, the body that had matured from that of a young girl into that of a woman. I knew that if I took care of my body it would fare better along this journey, I take it easy, drink water and breathe. I also am trying to eat better, more vegetables, grains and fruit. This is basic cause and effect, it is working, each day I get stronger and my body is responding to all the love and goodness put into it. Surgery was technically the worst part and my health gets better from that point forward.

Chemotherapy is a little different, it is a fight on the cellular level to eradicate any possibly loose cancer cells running around my body. They are probably there, but are they really??? How will these bad cells react? How will my body react? How many months is this going to take? am I going to be sick? how sick? does this involve more needles? when will I be me? (I already know that answer, I already am me) So lets meet the oncologist.

Lucky for me Kate made this trip with me, another of the many angels in my life. I needed the support for this trip. This place smells like medicine, in the please put me in the reclining position before I faint kind of way. Lots of body traffic going in an out, most of these people were members of the cancer club just like me. I wondered about their stories, I wondered if I could stay conscious, I wondered how I would be able to endure this?? Now mind you chemotherapy has never been an "option" for me, I knew I would do WHATEVER they recommended for treatment and I was informed that this would be a part of my treatment since April 1st. I have had some time to wrap my head around this idea, or so I thought. I was in no way prepared for this place, nor did I realize that this phase of treatment would be hard in a completely different way.

I met with Dr. Vu and he reviewed the report from the pathologist (lab Dr./person that studied all the tissue they removed during surgery) and the word is I have 2 primary cancers. My ovarian cancer was contained for the most part and not spread throughout the other tissue (good news), it was also ovarian in nature as opposed to metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other organs, also good news). The breast cancer was estrogen receptor negative (means that it is not fed by hormones, not so good news this type of breast cancer can behave badly) with additional cancer being found in only one out of 20 lymph nodes (good news). Overall these results made me feel a little better. Both surgeries were successful in achieving clean margins and complete removal of the cancers. They also say it is better to have 2 primary cancers then one cancer that has metastasized or spread. Who would have thought I would be so thankful to have two cancers.

Due to the fact that I have 2 cancers at such a young age with no family history, all of my Doctors have recommended genetic testing for the BRAC-1 or BRAC-2 cancer gene. I have mixed feelings on this type of testing and will probably be something I talk about on future posts. I haven't got the referral yet and I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

So Doctor Vu tells me the chemo plan. I will do IV (yes through a vein) chemotherapy of adriamycin/cytoxin every 2 weeks for 4 cycles. Then I will be given carboplatin/taxol every 3 weeks for 6 cycles. The way they organize chemo is the cycle begins when you are given the treatment the time from then to the start of your next cycle is for you body to recover for the next treatment. There will be lots of blood tests to insure that my white blood cell count is high enough. The IV treatments will also be combined with other drugs, some to prevent nausea, others to prevent itching and other reactions. The great news is that I will not have to have an IV placed in my arm at every treatment. The Port-o-cath Dr. Bortnstein put in my chest last Wednesday will help me avoid all the additional vein seeking. They should be able to use the port for blood draws as well as administering the chemo.

The first type of chemo is targeting the breast cancer, while the second type targets the breast as well as ovarian. Side effects are of course the known, nausea, hair loss, fatigue, immune compromised, these all vary from patient to patient. I won't know how my body will react until I start. Adriamycin the drug in the first type I will be receiving is know to cause heart problems, so I will be getting some kind of heart test from a local cardiologist making sure it will be strong enough to offset the negative effects of the drugs. Once I get the all clear from the heart doctor they will want me to start chemotherapy the 1st week in June. School will be out by then, this is not the summer kickoff party I had planned, but I am so thankful that all of my treatment has been coordinated so quickly and efficiently.

Kind of the tip of the iceberg, I don't know what to expect and am still moving forward full steam ahead into the unknown. To be honest chemo seems like alot of work, and I am a little intimidated by the process. I plan to dig deep into my support to help me through. If anyone is interested in being a chemo-companion please let me know. They haven't been scheduled yet, but as soon as they are I will let everyone know. To be honest the worst part about chemo was how heavy the energy felt there. I have been safely tucked away in my sanctuary where nothing but love and light come through the door, I have to say it is kind of addictive. The solution of course is simple, take the love and the light with me.

Tomorrow another trip to visit Dr. Berardi in Phoenix, it should be a quick one and I may get the final 2 grenades removed.

Drink water and breathe.........

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mission Complete

Talk about a long day............16 hours total full of all the wonders of modern medicine. We arrived early to quite possibly the busiest outpatient facility I have ever been to. The procedures were pushed back an hour due to a delay in the surgery scheduled ahead of mine. I don't think I have the ability to describe how busy this place was. I think they had a total of 10 operating rooms, they did anything from a broken leg to, light plastic surgery with anything in between. The number of nurses, doctors, aides, and registration people running around was mind boggling, kind of felt like Penn Station in New York City, I just crossed my fingers and hoped everyone made my train. As usual the staff was amazing, I was given some anti-nausea drugs with my anesthesia and they worked wonders. I didn't vomit at all and was actually able to grab a quick bite to eat post surgeries and make it to both doctor's appointments for the afternoon.

One thing I was kind of unprepared for was the amount of pain I would be in after these 2 minor procedures. I thought it made perfect sense to place my port for chemotherapy on my left side of my chest, due to all the complications on the right. Little did I know it would feel like someone hit me with a sledge hammer. Now my clever thinking had rendered my better arm in the same condition as my bad arm. The doctors say both surgeries went well and I should not have to go under the knife again until my permanent breast implants.

I would like to put a big thank you out to Dani for supporting me through this day. The journey for me is obviously hard. For Dani her day is equally as long, with a lot more conscious waiting. It is also a lot to ask a friend to be your medical power of attorney for the day. This cancer journey is heavy and for those close to me it is just as hard for them. So extra special thanks to Dani for being with me on this oh-so-long day, a better friend could not be found.

Now I am back on the rest and recovery wagon..........
Drink water and breathe.......

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A day in the valley....

Dani and I leave at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning, I have another day of medical fun planned. I am scheduled for 2 outpatient procedures at the Virginia Piper Outpatient Clinic, a section of Scottsdale Healthcare Shea. My plastic surgeon Dr. Berardi is planning on removing a section of dead skin tissue in the vicinity of where my right breast use to be. Since I like combining as many procedures as possible I also have Dr. Bornstein scrubbing in to put in my port-o-cath (this device will save me numerous, painful injections during chemotherapy). I don't think either of these procedures is too big of a deal. The surgeon mentioned something like light sedation, I think that translates to a vodka tonic instead of a martini....god knows I could use either at this present junction. The fun begins at 10:45 with pre-registration at 8:45.
My afternoon is booked with 2 week post-op appointments with Dr. Bornstein and Dr. Janiceck.
Which leads me to the statement "HOW TIME FLYS" it has been 2 weeks since my release from Thompson Peak. I have really come along way. My mobility is improving daily, the wonderful food and rest have aided in my healing.
I am dreading the long day tomorrow, but appreciate the doctors coordinating the schedule to allow for a single trip.
The hard part really falls on Dani, she has to drive, wait, and then get my some-what loopy post-op self to a couple of Doctor appointments. Luckily they are all in the same neighborhood. Dani is however highly trained in handling my somewhat loopy self so there really is no one better for the job. Who knew we were actually in training on those wild nights on Whiskey Row :)?
Early to bed tonight as we have to rise early.....
Keep us in your thoughts for a smooth day tomorrow, drink water and breathe.........

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

The greatest miracle of my life is being a mother. My boys bring me more joy then I could ever explain. Motherhood has changed me like no other life experience, it has also brought into my life some of the most amazing people ever. Motherhood is one of the many links I have to the community around me. My community of mama's is full of the most brilliant, powerful, loving, gracious, giving, hugging, not-hugging, beautiful women in the world. These women can also accomplish anything and are a force to be reckoned with. Today is your day Mama's know that you are all loved and appreciated for all the hats you wear. I take from all the people in my life to be the mother and woman I am today. Mama's you are an inspiration to me everyday and I am thankful to know so many wonderful mothers.
Go out and celebrate the Mother's!
Today I am going to celebrate being a mom with my mom and my boys and Tony Stark, luckily my mom likes action movies Iron Man 2 here we come!!!!!!!!!
don't forget to drink water and breathe.................maybe throw in a little popcorn and soda :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I fear Doctors.....

I am a woman who has never really liked doctors. Until I started having children I never saw one regularly. I think this stems from my childhood, I distinctly remember getting some kind of a shot when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. It must have been some kind of antibiotic, I was really sick and that feeling of leaving the doctors office feverish, dizzy and recently having some kind of injection in my butt. This memory or some dramatized version is one I have taken with me to every doctor visit since then. Mind you during the child bearing years I had to suck it up. Pregnancy requires a fair amount of medical tests with a bit of a hospital stay too. Then of course the boys have been to the doctor and needed immunizations and what not (yes that is equally as hard for me). I really felt like over the years my skin had thickened up quite a bit, I use to faint when I got my finger pricked (early 20's). I was able to stay conscious during blood draws and shots for the kids (early 30's). I was pretty much only effected in my head I could function with mild discomfort from sights and smells in any medical office. There were a few dizzy spells, but I could usually sit down and breathe through them. I did almost faint at my mammogram in May of last year. I needed some cold water and oxygen before they could go to the left breast. I attribute this response to it the being the 1st time having a test like this and it was done at the hospital. I don't think I would have had the same reaction at Prescott Medical Imaging nor have I had this response to mammograms since. For anyone that has not had a mammogram be clear, the test is NOT painful, this is just a psychological phenomena that I have created for myself since childhood.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer. All things medical have been catapulted into a nightmare realm that I could not have even fathomed. I have had more tests, injections, blood draws, IV's, SURGERIES, and pills. It has been less then 2 months and I have had to suck up general anesthesia twice and I am going to be put under again on May 12th. For an MRI, they put you in a tube with loud sounds bouncing off your body. Then half way through your 20 minute test, the technichian stops and injects gallenium into the butterfly she put on your hand when she first put you in the tube. Remember don't move, cough, lay very still and whatever you do don't freak out about lying in this noisy tube on your stomach with some crazy chemical being sent into your veins, could quite possibly be the longest 20 minutes of my life....I did however live through it.

The good news is I have grown as a person. With my various companions at my side I have endured the hospitalization and out-patient procedure in stride. I only whimpered like a child for injections into my flesh, the needles were oh-so tiny but that feeling of medicine seeping into the tissue was too much. I of course grimaced at every IV flush, the saline made my mouth taste like spray paint the instant each flush began. That is why I needed help with my drains at first (THANK YOU PAT I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU). Then of course my visit to Dr. Berardi for the JP tube removal was a source of discomfort, suture removal apparently not one of my strong suits either. We haven't even begun the injections into my inflatable implants I am certain that will be loads of fun. The good news is with the reconstruction process of my breasts the majority of the nerves have been damaged, that means I don't REALLY feel the needles. I do however feel pressure on the implants and that is enough for my brain to work itself up into a frenzy, and oh yeah Dr. Berardi is one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen, that makes me a little nervous and anxious too.

With my history of medical anxiety in mind and all that I have dealt with the last couple months I am actually quite pleased with the calm I have maintained so far through out this journey. Every step of the way I am reminded life is full of building blocks or experiences that prepare us for the next.

Apparently this is all in preparation for my chemotherapy, which is the next phase of this journey.

Drink water and breathe...........

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

and then there were two....

My Monday visit to Dr. Berardi was very liberating, 3 out of my 5 JP drains were removed. It felt like losing 10 lbs instantly the bulk of all the tubes and bulbs made it nearly impossible to wear anything other then pajamas....So it is official, I am healing which feels good. After the visit with Dr. Berardi, Chris and I made a quick stop at Trader Joe's for some pantry staples, then headed up the hill. We stopped at Lefty's Steakhouse in Dewey for a bite to eat on the way home and I was ready to collapse. I couldn't really sleep during the car ride and the whole adventure was about 8 hours from start to finish. I was so exhausted upon arriving home. This surgery has certainly tapped my stamina. I pretty much recovered all of Tuesday. I have some swelling from the drain removal, which I assume is normal. I continue to have the same level of discomfort, with perhaps a little less fatigue with each passing day.

Dr. Berardi is going to perform another out-patient procedure on me Wednesday, May 12th. Some remaining tissue on the right breast is not healing properly and he is going to remove it. This is probably due to scar tissue from the original biopsy in March. He assures me this is "light sedation" I think that means I will be kind of put under, but the procedure should only take about 15 minutes. It is really strange how accustomed to all this medical stuff I am becoming. A little light sedation sounds like a walk in the park to me now.

Tomorrow I get to meet my Oncologist, his name is Dr. Vu and his office is in Prescott Valley. Thank heavens I won't be making the Phoenix drive for chemotherapy. I hear great things about his office and I am looking forward to the details he can share with me about my cancers.

Thank you to everyone for all the help along the way. The meals have been delicious and such a great help. All the visits have been good for my spirit, and the boys have enjoyed all the company too. It has been a week today since I was released from the hospital, and I have to say I have come along way. Thanks for all the love, flowers, cards, thoughts, prayers, time and concern it is all working and I am on the mend.
drink water and breathe....

Monday, May 3, 2010

Feeling more like myself....

Things you do not do after you have a hysterectomy "suck it in", I also never would have thought about posting on the internet an image of my abdomen when unable to "suck it in". But the JP drains put in after my mastectomy need to be documented for this journey, I look like I have 5 plastic grenades pinned to my midsection. The drains require cleaning twice daily. They are put in place to collect fluid that may build up post surgery, this fact is completely disturbing to me. For the first few days Pat a retired RN came to clean them for me, it is not really a big deal for some people. Alas for me with my aversion to any thing medical it a source for some anxiety. I am however now capable of cleaning my drains myself and staying concious at the same time. It's amazing how far I have come since surgery.
The great news is today I go to Phoenix to see my plastic surgeon and he will possible remove some of these drains. The healing process is truly amazing and watching as my body recovers is truly miraculous. With the removal of drains I should be able to wear something other then pajamas, which of course is another step closer to me leaving my sanctuary and joining the rest of civilization.
Boredom is sinking in, it is so hard to just take it easy. I am continously reminding myself in order to heal I need to divert all the energy that I would use for my every day tasks to my body to recover from surgery. It is working every day I feel a little bit stronger, but it does take time and patience.
Drink water and breathe........
Today I would ask that anyone reading would send some love to a friend of mine named Denise, she is having a double mastectomy today. Say a prayer for her and her family. We are all a part of this human experience and there is never to much love sent out into the world.
Drink water and breathe Denise my thoughts are with you today.....

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Live from P-town, sometimes it takes awhile to find your fingers

I was certain that while I was home recovering not only would I have time to blog, I could read a few novels, catch up on a stack of movies, moisturize and do all things I haven't been able to do while working and living full time. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. Healing is big business and requires most of my attention. Everything I do is directed at my body recovering from the surgery. I eat to fuel my body, I sleep to rest it, I move to keep the muscles moving. I am seeking the balance of nourishment, exercise and rest to allow my body to heal as quickly as possible. Oh yeah I forgot the pain medication, that to is an important part of the equation.
I have to say my care team has been outstanding I have not been alone since my arrival home from the Thompson Peak Spa. Wonderful meals have been arriving daily for my family, and we have been surrounded by loving and caring people.
The day I was discharged from the hospital was by far the worse day of this journey. I was excited and ready to return home, but also scared of being able to return to "my life". I missed the boys so much and I was only able to speak with them briefly during my hospitalization. How would they respond to their invalid mother, with all these weird tubes hanging from her body? I am not use to counting on so many others for my needs as well as the need of my family. Things had changed so completely, I wondered if they would ever be the same again. Now mind you I am sorting out these heavy emotional details while going on my first car ride post surgery with 4cc of morphine to get me through the 100 or so mile ride home. That combined with the Percocet, nausea and my missing body parts can be considered a buffet of depressants. I was a wreck to say the least.
I did not want to see the boys this way, and I wasn't sure that it would change. All you can do when you feel like this is drink water and breathe.

Thankfully I have people who love and care about me. Who remind me of who I am when in the darkness I tend to forget. Kerry and Dani your love and care of me in the hospital could have been done by no others. Thank you to all of you who visited, called, sent cards and sent flowers they made for a cheery hospital stay. The volume of love that has been sent to me and my family during this ordeal is simply overwhelming it brings tears to my eyes when I see how truly blessed I am. Kate and Pat the ride home was so tender and caring, the love of these wonderful women eased me softly in my return to my sanctuary. They helped me to grieve and experience the emotion of all that I had been through in the last month, while gently reminding me of how drugged up I was,and that it would be better tomorrow. They left me with chicken soup in the caring hands of my friend Matt who's quiet strength rearranged the living room furniture for a viewing of Sherlock Holmes. Sometimes you need the quiet of your own home, the distraction of a good movie and the company of a good friend to just feel like in this world of crazy for just this moment things are kind of normal. Dani took over the night shift and diligently woke me every 4 hours to take my pain medication. Drink water and breathe tomorrow will be another day...........
I really did not know how limited my mobility would be. My friend Chris was to care for me on day one of arriving home, with Matt pulling the afterschool shift and Dani doing the night shift. Was all this really necessary? Apparently yes, Mason was brought home around 8:30 am and I instantly felt better his caring little presence just filled my heart with love. He was so happy to see me and be home. Here is the break down of my body:

my left arm has 50% of it's normal mobility,
my right arm has about 25% of its normal mobility due to the removal of the lymph node in this area, this is the most painful part lots of pins and needles intermixed with stabbing pain
I have 5 JP drains coming from where my chest once was, they look like soft plastic grenades that fill up with funky body fluid and need to be drained roughly every 12 hours (GROSS )these are not extrodinarily painful just really weird
I have an incision along my abodomen that is supported by what I call "SUPER SPANKS"
for the most part getting up from bed or sitting is the hardest part of my day, I can walk with relative ease but I fatigue easily. I can pack a lunch then I need to sit down and take a break. I can take a shower on my own only it takes about 40 minutes.
This is not how I am used to functioning.
Most of the pain and discomfort should not be permanent.

This is where my help comes in, they help me do all things that are necessary. My family and I are surrounded by so many willing to help....
That story is for later I need to rest.
Drink water and breathe.....................