Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Long Time No Talk

It has been a long time since I've posted, but that's because life has been... normal.  (My new normal.)

In good news - better late than never, right? - my scans came back clear!  Except for a small kidney stone and osteopenia, I have nothing to worry about right now!  Though cording has started in my arm again over the last few days, but that's another story altogether.

Jamie is doing great at work, and has been traveling quite a bit.  New York, Chicago, Florida, and Washington DC.  It's nice for him to get away, and he is really enjoying his job.

Gisele finished 6th grade (middle school) on a high, scoring the Principal's Award among many others.  She will be in Production (advanced) Theatre next year at the Junior High, and also made the cheer squad, so she has a busy year ahead.  She's also busy this summer; she has completed 2 weeks of camp (church & STEAM camp), and has 2 weeks of theatre camp, a week of cheer camp, and Camp Kesem still ahead.

Miles is completely in love with taekwondo and recently achieved green belt, the first of the intermediate belts, at Fort Bend Martial Arts.  He has started sparring, and we'll be ordering his personal sparring gear and bag soon.  Master Daniel wants him to join the competition team, and he is really excited about it.  He had a great year at school, but is happy to have a break before 4th grade. He loved church camp - his first year going - and is looking forward to Camp Kesem later this summer.  It's a (free!) week-long sleepaway camp for kids with parents who have gone through cancer treatment.

We're preparing for our family reunion and all really excited to see everyone!  The reunion would have been last summer, but everyone agreed to postpone a year since I was going through treatment.  We'll have 12 adults and 12 kids in a house together for a week and it should be a blast!  We'll be meeting at Lake Texoma this weekend!

So that's my current normal.  Busy, achy, and learning to deal with my chemo curls.  I love it all.  I'm grateful for it.  God is good.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Today was a hectic day.

Jamie is in Chicago for work, so I'm single parenting it for a couple of days.  (Single parents who do this all the time, I salute you!)  Yesterday was a late night for both kids due to homework and cheer tryout prep.  Today included an emotional breakdown by my son (friend drama) followed by taekwondo, a play audition and cheer tryouts for my daughter, and overlapping pick-up and drop-off times for activities.  We ended by picking up Sonic for their dinner since I'm out of energy.

In health news, I'm continuing to feel more energetic, but joint issues and insomnia are still pretty killer.  And more concerning, I have a sore spot on my ribs on my back right side.

I sent a message in to my care team at MD Anderson about the sore spot.  I let them know it had been here for about 2 weeks, feels like a bone bruise, and isn't the result of any kind of injury.  About 15 minutes after my cancer PCP sent the message to my MedOnc, he called me to let me know he was scheduling a CT and a Bone Scan.

It's not a good feeling when your MedOnc calls you to say he's ordering scans.

On the one hand, I'm glad he's looking into it and getting it checked out quickly; on the other hand, the immediate response makes me feel like he's worried about this, which... has me worried.

I see him on Thursday - in 2 days - for my regular check-up with some bloodwork, and then will have the scans done next Thursday.  If you pray, please be in prayer for me.  Pray that this is nothing, and pray for my emotional well-being while I wait to have the scans done and then wait for the results.

If this is something... it's not good.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hair Update

Hair growth!  Pictured - at the end of chemo, then 3 months, 6 months, and now 9 months after.  Any tips on taking care of curls, especially at this length?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Flat and Fabulous

I've been asked a few times whether or not I'll have reconstruction done, so I thought I'd address that here.

The majority of reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients undergoing a mastectomy/lumpectomy is done at the time of the initial surgery. Because of the location of my affected lymph nodes (including one in my sternum), my RadOnc wanted me completely flat for radiation, which meant delayed reconstruction, if any. The failure rate for implants after radiation is very, very high, so my best option for reconstructive surgery is/was DIEP flap.

DIEP flap surgery, which could happen after my skin was completely healed from radiation (minimum of 9 months), is very, very invasive. Feel free to google it, but it basically involves a hip-to-hip incision, the removal of skin & tissue from your abdomen to form new breast shapes, and then the reconnection of all of the blood vessels in that tissue to the vessels in your chest to keep that tissue alive. It's a minimum of 2 surgeries, and the 1st surgery has a 6 week recovery time.

I could change my mind at any point in my life and decide to undergo that surgery, but right now I'm as happy as I can be flat. Here are my reasons:

1) I don't want to put my body through another surgery & recovery. It's a long surgery and a long recovery, and my body has been through a lot already.

2) My kids (ages 9 & 11) have seen me go through enough. I don't want to add an elective surgery on top of that. Right now I'm starting to get my energy back and they're enjoying me looking/feeling/acting more like my "old" self. I don't want to take that away from them.

3) If I went through a surgery, it would just be for aesthetic reasons. It's a lot to go through for lumps of tissue. No matter what, I'll never have my former body back. The new "breasts" might look great, but they won't be the same and I won't have feeling in them. Would that really be worth it? My husband is happy with me just as I am.

4) If I end up with mets at some point, will I have wanted to have wasted all that time in surgery & recovery? Will the new "breasts" be in the way/make any new scans more difficult? Will it be easier to notice a possible recurrence if I just stay flat?

5) I'm actually enjoying being flat, in a lot of ways. I still have to get used to how I look when I see myself in a mirror, and shopping is trickier - things fit differently than they did on my 32DDs - but being flat has advantages. No boob sweat! No adjusting bra straps all the time. No extra layer in the hot Houston weather. Button-ups don't gape over my breasts anymore. And I have an excuse to buy cute new shirts.

So I'm 99% sure I won't want to ever do reconstruction.

The decision is personal for everyone, but I've been happy flat so far. (My bilateral mastectomy was 7/20/18.) If you are going through this process yourself and have questions, feel free to comment or email me and I'll get in touch.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Recovery Update

I have a new normal, now.  Cancer sucks in many, many ways, and I'm introduced to more of them each day.  Living with cancer, going through treatment, and recovering from treatment all come with their own challenges, and it's really an entire world that a lot of people will, God willing, never have to learn anything about.

Emotionally, life after cancer treatment is difficult.  I've never been a hypochondriac, but am almost encouraged to be one now.  My white blood cells are still low (possibly as a result of the medication I'm on, though my MedOnc isn't quite sure of the cause), so I need to stay away from anyone sick, and call my team immediately if I develop a fever.  If I have any swelling in my right arm or trunk, I need to contact my team right away (signs of lymphedema).  If I have any acute bone aches, headaches, lumps, nausea, breathing issues, fatigue... basically, I should contact my medical team if I feel anything out of the "ordinary."  The problem is, my "ordinary" now is not what it used to be.

One good thing has come out of treatment - I have a higher tolerance for pain than I ever had before.  My monthly Lupron shots (to put me into/keep me in menopause) are supposedly painful, but I take them without flinching.  I'm living with daily pain, so what's a little bit more?  The medication I'm on - exemestane/Aromasin - has given me arthritis and incredibly achy joints all over my body, so my MedOnc is switching me to a different AI (aromatase inhibitor) to see if that will be more tolerable.  We'll see if it helps.  In the meantime, I'm trying to take no more than 1 Aleve a day, and I hobble like an 80 year old woman every time I get up.   But I'll live with it because I'll LIVE.  I'll take it over the alternative.

I burned the fingers of my right (cancer side) hand on the stove - just mildly - the other day, and the very next morning felt the beginnings of cording in my arm.  It's been 5 days now, and no amount of stretching or massage on my part has made it any better, so I've sent a message to my physical therapy team, and they're getting an order so I can get an appointment set up.  I love them, but I'm not looking forward to having the cording worked out.  My pain tolerance may be higher, but that will push it to the limit.

My 12 week LiveStrong program at the Y ends at the end of next week, and I highly recommend it to anyone recovering from cancer treatment.  I have 60-70% of my energy back, and I feel so much stronger than I did before I started the program.  It's free, and really has helped me to feel "normal" again.  

My hair is coming back in nicely, though with more grey than before.  It's curly, though still short enough that it looks wavy instead.  It's nice to have hair again!

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