Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All clear!

It has taken me far to long to share this news with my blog universe. My PET scan was all clear, my blood markers are within normal range. My understanding is that I am cancer free. What a gift. I have been busy celebrating LIFE. I have known since December 16th, it is quite possibly the best Christmas present I have ever received.

Now I am transitioning into a new phase of being a cancer survivor. My medical team now monitors me. This area is vague and grey, kind of that in between. Pema Chodron a Buddhist nun and author claims this is the space in which inner peace is found. Lucky me cancer delivered me hear on a short nine month journey, I don't feel all that peaceful. Exhausted and elated maybe but not necessarily enlightened. In all seriousness this place I am in is a little unsettling. I have a blood test once a month to monitor my ovarian cancer. I will have a blood test quarterly to monitor my breast cancer. I will see my oncologist every 3 months providing all blood tests are normal. In 6 months I will have another PET scan to make sure all is still well. My oncologist said to watch my skin for any type of red fungus looking type outbreaks. Due to the type of cancer I have I will not have to take any oral medications to prevent a recurrence. I take this little tidbit as a blessing. The less pharmaceuticals that are pumped into my body the better. It is still kind of weird, my friends and I have spent so much time in the chemo recliners. Then it is over just like that, it is like the end of a relationship, no break up sex to commemorate the event, it is just finished.

I still have reconstruction procedures over the next few months. Next Friday I will have my implant exchange. That is right the silver lining is about to arrive. I will have new perky breast mounds put in on January 7th. I have adjusted to the expanders but am looking forward to my new soft breasts. Of course I will be nipple free, for a few more months. That procedure will be scheduled in a couple of months. Then of course I will have areola tattooed on some time after that. The journey continues......

Sometime during the last 8 months I read that chemotherapy adds 10 years to your age. The toll it takes on your body is pretty severe. My hair is returning I have a 5 o'clock shadow on my head. Hair on the rest of my body seems to be returning sporadically. I have quite a few pounds to shed as a result of all my steroid filled treatment. This journey is probably going to be longer then my cancer quest as the quest for good health is never ending.

A few weeks ago my friend Matt and I went on a little mountain bike ride. For all you locals it was only the Peavine trail. For my readers who don't know the area "a very mellow ride along an old rail road track with minimal change in grade". The ride was only 8 miles on a beautiful sunny day. The 4 miles to Prescott Valley went pretty smooth. Upon arriving at the Iron King trail head in Prescott Valley I turned around to see the slight grade we had just come down to realize I was completely out of my league. I was at the half way point, my saddle was already sore I was not quite sure how I was going to make it back. I have plenty of will just no muscle to speak of. My friend Matt was so patient as I huffed and puffed my way up this long slow grade. For those of you who think I am being mellow dramatic, I was pedaling so slow a jogger almost caught up to me. Rather then allow such an embarrassment I quickly sprinted to the next bend where I could rest without being lapped by the jogger. Recovering my health is going to be my real journey, tearing something down is so easy building something is so much harder.

Through out this all it still makes sense to drink water and breathe.......

Monday, December 20, 2010

PET scan anyone????

Since my last treatment (November 24th) I have felt stronger with each passing day. The last few weeks have been crazy busy.

I had a PET scan on December 10th. This was not one of my finer medical moments. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding this test. All the treatment and surgery comes down to these results. My human brain can't help but wonder, is the cancer gone? did the chemo work? am I really finished? In preparation for the test I eat no carbs the day prior. I swear this gives me some kind of sugar withdrawal headache the night before the test. I of course don't take any medicine for the headache, even though they say it is okay. I personally feel like the less variables in my system the better. There is of course no medical reason for me to come to this conclusion, I try to just hydrate the headache away.

The next day I am allowed only water prior to the test. So I go strolling in the office determined to be my optimistic self. I have the scan done at the new SimonMed facility in Prescott Valley. My appointment was scheduled at 9:00 I arrived right on time. Then preceded to wait for one hour in the lobby. This flagrant abuse of patient time is something I find very frustrating. I attempt to keep my irritation at bay but it is kind of hard.

Finally around 10:00 I get called back. I am feeling rather confident in my ability to handle these medical tests like a grown up. Dan the technician is quite nice he takes me back to a holding area. First he tests my blood sugar to make sure it is within range. I take the finger prick like a champ. Next Dan locates a nice plump vein in my left arm and inserts a small butterfly. He flushes the line with a little saline, I get that nasty taste in my mouth which I get every time I have a saline flush. This is all pretty routine up to this point. I notice Dan has a little thing on his finger and I make some comment like "are zip-tie rings the latest accessory in the medical field?" He proceeds to tell me it is a radiation badge, designed to make sure that he is not exposed to to much of it, since it is harmful and all. Dan then leaves the room only to return with a giant metal syringe full of radioactive glucose that he will be injecting directly in to my veins. Somehow this situation is not comforting to me. My body decides to react with a loud ringing in my ears, I then start sweating profusely, then my vision starts to go in and out. I let nice Dan know that he needs to recline the chair and I am about to faint. I think this little episode lasts about a minute. I manage to not pass out completely. This return to my old reaction to medical treatment has me wondering if my Dr. phobia has improved at all? I start to calm down and Dan removes the butterfly and wraps my arm with some tape.

Now the next phase of the testing begins I have to sit calmly in this little dark room. I am cozied up under a blanket with my shoes off. I am supposed to sit here for about 45 minutes. I am determined to be calmer then I have ever been. This is the most important test of my life and I certainly don't want to F it up by moving to many muscles. Luckily there is a flat screen TV in the room, a little mindless TV to distract the mind could be helpful in this situation. Unfortunately it is set to TLC and "A Baby Story" marathon is on. I do not have a remote control this is not good. Now I was a fan of this show during my pregnancies. There is a time in every woman's life where a show like this could connect you to the miracle of childbirth. I however did not feel that way on this particular day. I was sure watching one woman push during delivery was causing my own pelvic region to contract. I decided to ignore the show and manage to dose off for most of the next baby story. I awoke to a brilliant young woman who had managed to carry her second child to full term without even knowing that she was pregnant. Watching someone claim such a thing really does aggravate me on some kind of primitive level. How could I possibly relax with this kind of torture?

Finally Dan comes to get me and set me up in the tube for the scan itself. This is another part of the test where I get to be absolutely still again. Only to make it more fun this time I get to lie flat on my back. To make it interesting I get to hold my hands up over my head. Lucky for me my mastectomy and expanders made all my chest muscles super tight. I feel like a spring loaded mouse trap. With out complete concentration my arms could snap up at any moment. Dan proceeds to move the platform that I am on in and out of this machine. It looks like a large block with a cylinder in the middle. The room is a cool 50 - 60 degrees. Thankfully I have blankets over me, he does however forget to cover my bald head. Time to relax this will only take about 30 minutes or so. Great, my nose starts to itch just as the test begins. Now I am really starting to enjoy myself.

So I somewhat chant my way through the test drink water and breathe, drink water and breathe....you can do this..........

and it works I finish the test by about 12:30. There would be no results until I saw the Dr. the following week.

the rest of the story is coming soon.....

drink water and breathe..........

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chemo log 17 - over at last

What a journey it has been.

My last chemo went off without a hitch. Liette and Matt spent the day with me. They brought lunch and we played cards, I lost every hand of cribbage. Someone forgot to tell them the girl with cancer is allowed to win. I am thinking about putting together a chemo companion rule book after this all said and done. My friend Dani also stopped by with a celebratory basket full of all kinds of goodies. It is so nice to feel all the love and support that I have.

After treatment I picked the boys up from their play date and headed home for an early evening. My Dad phoned a couple hours after I got home and told me that my grandma Heatherbelle had passed away earlier that morning. My family knew that it was coming, she was after all 96. Grandma Heatherbelle lead quite a full and blessed life. The love and kindness she showed to everyone is something I will always admire and keep close to my heart. She was also a great romantic and would write the sweetest poems about love. So in addition to celebrating my last treatment I am also celebrating the rich full life of my grandma and all the love she shared with the world. We will forever share November 24th as a special day.

It is great to know that I have completed treatment. I am however only celebrating ever so lightly. I am at an in between stage. I have a PET scan scheduled later this week. They will take images of my body while a radioactive glucose is pumped through my veins. This test will confirm that I am cancer-free. So I am holding off the big celebration for the final word. It is wonderful to have the month off from treatment and know that my body will feel better with each passing day. I remember how scared I was just to get the PET scan before. Now eight long months later I can kind of gauge just how far I have come. All the treatment I have had leads up to this one test. I am probably more scared then I have ever been. At this point in the journey I have effectively managed my fear of the test itself and most things medical. It is the results that have the power and I want closure on cancer, I want my images to show my port and expanders and nothing else. I of course have no control over this and it will be as it will be.

My heart was heavy with breast cancer worry as the media is flooded with the death of Elizabeth Edwards. What an amazing woman and mother. The loss her family has experienced just brings me to tears. I have tried to give very little power to the fact that this disease that I share with so many women is deadly. I am not in denial, I just think hope is vital to strength and healing. I feel intimately connected to the sadness of all women who have lost their battle with breast cancer. We all will have to face our own mortality.........cancer patients have been forced to face theirs sooner then most would like.

On a lighter note the holiday season at the Rouette household is in full swing. The boys and I hung outdoor lights yesterday. This is something I have always wanted to do and never done. The results are great, so gaze at our hilltop in the evening if you are in the area or hell just stop by for an eggnog our door is always open. We purchased our live-potted tree and plan on decorating it tomorrow it only stands about 3 feet tall, but is soooo cute . Mason is going to be in his first Christmas pageant this week, I don't think he will have a speaking part but we have been practicing the carols in the car everyday. Then of course there is Mason's birthday party this weekend. We will be celebrating the big 5 which is impossible to believe. All this is happening this week in addition to a PET scan, work and school. No wonder I keep telling myself.....

drink water and breathe...........