A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Happy Day

My surgeon's office called to say that there was no cancer cells found in the lymph nodes. A happy day, indeed.

Please keep us in your prayers.

“…For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” -Matt. 6:8

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Lymph Nodes are Removed

Steven left me off at the hospital early in the morning, knowing that I would be there all day. He tells me again that he wishes he could spend all day with me there, but this week is the most busy time period for his job as there are a lot of mailings to do for Black Friday. I am really okay about being there by myself I tell him because I always feel so much worse for the people seeing me suffer than I am for my own suffering. I just don't feel up to worrying about others right now.
The nurses get all the paperwork done and I dress in a hospital gown and get into bed. They get a bag of  water going in my arm, and get a urine sample to test for pregnancy, just in case. It comes back negative. Sandy drops by after teaching in the morning and stays for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, the doctor in charge of inserting me with radioactive material comes in with three needles. They raise the head of the bed and he inserts these in my breast around the area of the lump, which turns out to be the most painful part of the whole procedure done this day. He is apologetic about hurting me, which was so kind. Sandy tells me that I can squeeze her hand just like I did during delivery of each of the five babies, but that hand has the needle in it for the water, so it is too weak to squeeze. 
The nurse massages the area to help get the material spreading around. I am instructed to shift around every few minutes and even get up and walk around to get the radioactive material going to the lymph nodes. This helps the doctor to find them for removal. After a while Sandy leaves for a meeting at work, but she brings Sam back to stay with me, but by this time, they are wheeling me off to the surgery prep area, so he has to stay in my room and wait for me. 
The surgeon checks to see if the radioactive material has made it to the lymph nodes with this piece of machinery that looks like a tape recorder with a microphone. She puts the microphone looking piece up to my arm pit and it makes this sound like a metal detector. I must admit, it was quite cool. I am introduced to the anesthesiologist and my nurse. They explain everything that is going to happen to me, including everything while I am asleep, which I find very reassuring. It is not knowing what is going to happen which makes me scared. They are all so very kind. They inject the area with blue dye, which also helps with locating the lymph nodes. The nurse tells me that my urine will be blue for a while because of it. They give me morphine for pain, an antibiotic and a pill that makes me go to sleep. 
The next thing I know is that I am waking up in the recovery room a couple of hours later. They wheel me back to my room and I am feeling particularly vulnerable coming out of anesthesia, so Sam's smile is a very reassuring sight. I was glad he was there after all. Not long after, the nurse gives me pain medication and tells me that I am ready to be released in a half-hour. I am surprised since my legs are still shaky, but within a half-hour I am indeed ready to get dressed and leave. I am wheeled out to the car and I am home within minutes, feeling pretty good, all things considered. This first leg of the journey is complete. My next appointment is with the surgeon on Monday, December 3 to check the area for recovery and to give me the results of the testing on the lymph nodes. On Tuesday, December 4th, I meet with the plastic surgeon to talk about breast reconstruction because reconstruction begins at the same time as the mastectomy. All the decisions on that have to be made, then, before I go in for the mastectomy. We are all hoping this will be completed so that I can be in recovery during Christmas.

Please keep us in your prayers.

“…For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” 
~Phil 4:11-13

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pre-Op Tests

Today I went to the hospital for insurance pre-authorization, blood tests, chest x-rays and an EKG for the lymph node removal next week. Sam went with me, but we moved along so quickly from one test to the next, we didn't have much chance to talk. Other than the fact they had a hard time finding a vein for the blood test, everything went well. The surgery is slated for Tuesday morning.
I also announce it on my blog, as I am not sure how treatment will affect my regular posting. I want to be upbeat and make this a blessing to someone else who may be going through similar circumstances, but I am not sure how yet.
Please keep us in your prayers.

“I am with you always…” -Matt. 28:20

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Surgeon

Steven and I met with the surgeon on this day. She was very kind and caring and talked us through all the steps we would be going through. She said that she would not say exactly what stage it was until she had more information from the lymph node removal and the removal of the lump. She outlined the options of a lumpectomy, in which the lump and some tissue surrounding it are removed or the mastectomy, in which the whole breast is removed. She said that the chances of recovery (90-95%) were the same with both procedures but if the lab said that if we chose the lumpectomy  and the lab found that there were cancerous cells in the tissue around the lump, she would have to do a second operation, getting more tissue out. Steven and I both felt that we would be more comfortable with the mastectomy option. During one point in the discussion, it all became so painfully real, like a big avalanche hitting me all at once, I began shaking all over and felt as if I was going to faint. Steven recognized this and came over to hug me. The next step, the removal of some of the lymph nodes to see if the cancer cells had yet move to them was scheduled. She explained that after the mastectomy, I would undergo chemotherapy, but probably a newer type that did not require a port inserted, did not cause hair loss and the nausea was much less, if at all. There was a 50% chance that I would also need radiation therapy down the road as well. 
During the following days,  thoughts of my not seeing my kids grow up and not seeing my grandchildren ...or even not even seeing next year kept hitting me at unexpected moments and with sudden overwhelming pain. This would develop into a growing strength in conviction that I was going to do everything in my power to live!
Now that I have a little more information, I email a few good friends to tell them the news, and then later on announce it on FB, requesting prayer.
Please keep us in your prayers.

“I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee…”
2 Kings 20:5

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Doc Calls

(on right)

My GP called to see how we all were doing and to expressed how surprised he was too. His office set me up for an appointment for the surgeon for the following Monday.
At some point, I break the news to the little ones, but reassure them that I am going to be okay. I am afraid to use the c-word with them because they know of a good friend who died of cancer, but I eventually do.
Steven and I take James to a pre-scheduled doctor's appointment. I was planning all along to go alone, but Steven doesn't want to leave me alone now.
Please keep us in your prayers.

“…for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things…”
~Matt. 6:32

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Mammogram, etc.

This was my first mammogram, but the radiologist and staff were so friendly and kind that it was not a bad experience at all. I was then off to the already scheduled sonogram. Lots of getting dressed and getting undressed. : ) 
I watched as the technician did the sonogram of the mass, and I was still thinking at this point that it was nothing so I found watching quite interesting.She then left to get them signed off by the doctor. She came back and said that the doctor was coming, and she was going to get some additional pictures meanwhile. She began getting sonogram pictures of my underarms and it was then I realized that something must not be right.
A few minutes later the doctor came in, looked at the sonograms of my underarm and then sat down to tell me that it was a cancerous mass, and from its size (they guessed that it was about 2.5 cm) she estimated that it was a stage 2 cancer. She said that, from the sonogram pictures, it did not look as if it had migrated to the lymph nodes, which is where the cancer would travel if it were to move out of the mass. She said that she would like to complete a biopsy now, if possible. I called Steven and told him that I had cancer, that I would be staying later for a biopsy and asked him to call Sandy (my best friend) and tell her. It was a lot for him to digest in one tiny call.
The doctor gave me a local and then made a tiny incision in my breast. She then placed an instrument in that grabs pieces of the tumor for testing, which sounded a lot like a staple gun. They thought that I might be interested in watching the process on a screen, but now that I knew it was cancer instead of just a benign lump, it wasn't fun anymore and I didn't want to look at it at all. I just felt sick to my stomach. She took three pieces for pathology. They also inserted a marker so that in all future mammograms and the like they would know exactly where to look. I must mention that although it measured about 2.5 cm, which sounds like a lot, everyone that examined me had a little difficulty in finding it. It really didn't seem that large by touch. They now sent me down to get a second set of mammograms.
The technician there was not surprised to see me as she recognized it as a cancerous mass in the first set. By this time Sandy had cancelled her class (she is a college professor) and had come to guide me through these last tests and took me home. They gave me a large pink book that tells all the ins-and-outs of this world I was now a part of, but I asked Sandy to slip it in her backpack because I was not yet ready to share this with the kids. We had to now go through the motions of a birthday dinner out at a restaurant and cake at home. It was actually a good thing because I was able to forget about it a little and let it slowly sink in.

Please keep us in your prayers.

"I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion …”
~ A prayer of David when he was trapped in the cave, Psalm 142