Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Refiners Fire

22 radiation treatments done!  Woohoo!!!, right???  More like OUCH!
Well on a positive note only 3 more, unless my doctor decides to do another 5 after that.  Crossing my fingers and hoping not.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting to happen.  The slight irritation I got after week 3 was pretty bad and I honestly thought it wouldn’t get much worse, even though my doctor said it would.  Now my skin is coming off in places (mostly under my arm) and I really can’t imagine anything worse than this.  But then again my doctor says it will get worse.  Not very encouraging.  In fact I just want to go to my room and cry.  I gave my boss the word yesterday that I need the next several weeks off so I am now home.  Just hoping he can find a sub for all that time.

Other than the pain from radiation and the side effects from Steven’s last surgery, both of us are doing okay.  My hair is growing more and more every day.  I have a whole half inch now!  More exciting than that is I now have some eyebrows and eyelashes.  I have once again gotten out the mascara.  I'm very happy about that.  Steven's incision is healing very well and he is starting to get more feeling back.  The feeling returning to his arm is not all good at this point though.  He has a lot of pain in his left shoulder and arm.  He is currently undergoing physical therapy for it.  Hopefully it begins to feel better soon.

With all that our family has been going through the last couple of months I have noticed a gradual change in our marriage and in our family.  We have had to learn to rely on the Lord for everything.  Because of this Steven and I are closer than we have ever been, and I feel more qualified to teach things of the spirit to my girls.  I have noticed my relationship with my Father in Heaven and my Savior to be more profound.  I can feel myself being humbled and taught.  This has been a great blessing for me as well as our family.  Although I don't care for cancer, I am grateful for what I have learned and continue to learn because of the trials we are going through.  I am coming to understand the atonement better each day, though I still have much to learn.  I have such a great love for Jesus and my Heavenly Father.  I know that they love me and are aware of what my family and I are going through.  I feel as though I am being put through the refiners fire.  I know that in the end this will be for my good and my learning.  What a great blessing it is to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings of eternal families.  The knowledge I have brings such peace to my soul.  

I again want to express my gratitude to everyone for their support, love and prayers.  Most of all I want to say thank you for the many acts of service by so many.  I am surrounded by angels.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ready For The Next Step

Since I have finished chemo my family and I have taken a much needed vacation.  We were able to go on our own church history tour finished off by spending time with family in Utah.  First we went to Palmyra, New York to see the Cumorah Pagent, then to Niagra Falls (not really church history), then to Kirtland, Ohio, and finally to Nauvoo, where the Nauvoo Pagent was going on.  It was neat to see all these places and to be able to feel the Spirit.  To finish off the vacation at Bear Lake was perfect.  Now that we are home I am slowly recovering from our vacation.

Steven and I both have been busy getting ready for our next step in our treatments.  Steven went and met with his surgeon as well as his new endocrinologist.  We are both so glad he has switched doctors.  This new doctor has gained our confidence that he knows what he is doing.  Steven is scheduled for surgery to have a total lymph node removal on the left side of his neck on the 21st of this month.  Hopefully that will be all the cancer.  If there is still cancer they will do the radiation therapy again.  The one he had before was way too low of a dose for his cancer is what we have been told.  With all the bad doctoring by his last endocrinologist there is no way of knowing if the cancer was there before or if it is a recurrence.  Unfortunately the last doctor is not a part of UPMC so the current doctor does not have access to all her notes.  So we are pressing forward best we can.

I was able to do my simulation on Thursday for my radiation.  The position they had me in is very uncomfortable.  I have to hold that position for about 20 minutes every time I go in.  I start the actual radiation tomorrow morning and it will go for just under 6 weeks Monday through Friday.  I am told by the 3rd or 4th week it will begin to be painful.  I'm not looking forward to it.

Things are beginning to take their toll on both Steven and I.  It is getting harder to put on a brave face with all that is happening.  But we continue to try and do our best.  I think we are both just tired emotionally more than anything.  Sometimes it is hard to see the good things when we are in the midst of our trials.  I do have faith that this is for our learning and our good, but it is not always easy to have that frame of mind.  I'm grateful for the gospel and the scriptures that remind me of a loving Father in Heaven who knows us and has a plan for each of us.  I appreciate the prayers that have been given in our behalf and ask that you please continue them.

On a more positive note, my hair is growing.  I even went without my head scarf for most of church today.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Last Day of Chemo and Cancer Recurrence

For the last 9 months it seems as though Steven and I have been on a roller coaster.  With both of us being diagnosed with cancer only weeks apart we have been overwhelmed with what was to come.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer and soon had a very real plan of attack to beat this cancer.  It was taken very seriously by all.  No one told me I was lucky to have this type of cancer.  No one down graded my feelings and worries.  

I had surgery (a double mastectomy) right before Christmas.  I then started chemo at the end of January.  Today was my very last chemo treatment which is indeed a great cause for celebration.  I'm not at the end of my journey.  I still have 5 weeks of radiation and maybe reconstruction (not yet decided) in the near future.  But what I think is the worse, is behind me.  

Steven was diagnosed with what all called the "good" cancer.  He has been told how lucky he is to have this type of cancer.  His plan of attack was not a great concern to his doctors.  They figured he waited so long that what was the harm in waiting longer.  It was greatly downplayed by all concerned.  Both of us at first believed the doctors and their jubilant attitude of having the "good" cancer.  We thought this would be easy.  Another surgery to remove the rest of the thyroid then iodine radiation.  Easy Peasy!  Right???  Not so much.  Steven was diagnosed with Stage III Papillary Thyroid Cancer.  He went through the 2 surgeries and the iodine radiation.  His radiation was actually done only a few days before my first chemo treatment.  So he was in isolation while I was sick downstairs.  I got to say that was fun.  Not!!!  Since that time he has been on the roller coaster of ups and downs with his medication.  Getting it regulated has been stressful.  We are still not there.  His physical and emotional health has suffered greatly.  He has very little energy.  He suffers from fatigue and cannot seem to loose weight.  He has joined a support group and has learned quite a bit more about his cancer.  He has learned that there is more to be concerned about then what the doctor has led us to believe.  For the last few months Steven has experienced difficulty swallowing again.  He made the decision to see my oncologist (who is wonderful by the way).  After meeting with my oncologist an ultrasound was ordered where 2 suspicious lymph nodes were discovered and a biopsy ordered.  Today while sitting in the chemo chair for the last time I got the call from my sweet husband that he again has cancer.  What a day!  What frustrates me is his other doctor didn't want to do the biopsy because they rely solely on the blood tests and they looked great.  I'm upset with their lack of concern.  I'm tired of them blowing him off and the constant reminder that he has the "good" cancer.  This is NOT a good cancer.  There is no good cancer.  I wonder if the doctors realize what they are doing when they tell their patients this.  It belittles what is actually a big deal for the person with the cancer.  It also seems to lessen the concern on the medical side point.  It gets swept under the rug so to speak. 

Through our cancers I have been spoiled by those around me while my husband for the most part has been left on the side line.  Mostly his concern is for me.  But the more he learns about his cancer the more concerned he becomes about what is going on with him.  Now that I am beginning to learn more about his cancer I am becoming concerned as well.  My husband is precious to me.  He is my best friend, my confidant, my love.  His welfare is important to me.  I want him with me for a long time.  We have been blessed to be sealed in the LDS Temple in Ogden Utah for time and all eternity.  That is a comfort to me, but I'm not ready to be left here without him for a time.  

The recurrence of cancer is scary.  We don't know for sure how far it has spread and how serious this is going to be.  But I'm hoping that the doctors will wake up and realize that this is real and we are scared.  Don't tell us this is the "good" cancer.  It is far from the "good" cancer.  It has changed our lives.  Our life seems to be all about cancer right now.  It is hard to see past that.  We are effected daily by it.  

Today has been both a good and bad day.  I finished my chemo which is reason to celebrate.  I'm so happy that I don't have to do this again.  I'm ready for the side effects to dissipate.  I'm ready for the full head of hair and eyebrows that don't have to be drawn on.  I'm ready be able to go to bead without my toes driving me crazy from the burning and itching.  I'm ready to be able to walk without getting tired so fast.  

Renea (my sister-n-law) got me a cake to celebrate today and Steven and Katie (my daughter) got me some flowers.  I had a wonderful friend, Christine, take me to my chemo.  I love it when Christine takes me.  She is so upbeat and I feel myself with her.  I have come to love so many in my ward the last 9 months.  I am amazed at their willingness to love and serve.  I have gotten to know many of the Sisters in my ward and they will be my forever friends.  This evening the girls were all excited to celebrate with me by having the yummy cake.  

The news of Steven's cancer recurrence has of coarse damped that experience.  But we will continue to fight.  We are not giving up.  We will beat these cancers!
Although we struggle with the physical aspect of all of this we also have recognized our blessings.  We have been surrounded by angels, both those temporal and spiritual.  I can feel them and their love for us.  I know that in the end all will be well.  But the road is a hard one.  At times it can be overwhelming.  Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting at church.  I felt the desire to go and share my testimony, but let my youngest who was pretending to be asleep in my arms keep my in my seat.  But I want all who read this to know how grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because of the knowledge I have of the atonement I have peace.  I love my Father in Heaven and want to do all that is right that I may someday return to him.  I hope to exemplify those around me that serve so selflessly.  They are true disciples of Christ.  I love my Savior and older brother, Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful for his love and atoning sacrifice for me.  I hope that I can follow his example and have charity for all.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by spiritual giants.  Your testimonies have strengthened me and your example of love, service and sacrifice astounds me.  Our family has been greatly blessed.  

I want to shout out to all my sisters in this fight.  Your willingness to share your experience has boosted me.  You are all so amazing!  We are not alone.  I am coming to understand the often seen phrase of fighting cancer.  Before I didn't feel like a fighter, just someone who had to do what I didn't want to have to do.  But today I feel that I am a fighter.  I still have a long road ahead as well as my husband.  But we are fighters.  We will come out the other side better and stronger.  We will come out the other side more compassionate and filled with more love for those around us.  We will come out the other side more Christ like.  And it is because of the examples you have set.  Thank you and may God Bless you all!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Finding My Self Worth

I have 6 more Taxol treatments and I will be done with chemo.  Hopefully for good!

Although the Taxol isn't as harsh as what is known as the reds (Adriamycin & Cytoxan), it has it's own slew of side effects.  Not only are there side effects from the Taxol, but from the pre-meds given me every week.  Some of these side effects are harder on me than others.  I am finding the more treatments I have the more fatigue I have.  My legs and feet ache and I find walking far exhausts me. The temporary menopause with its accompanying hot flashes are awful.  Weight gain is also an unexpected side effect.  This is from the steroids I'm given before the Taxol.  This causes an increased appetite with weight gain.  I can't seem to get full.  I'm constantly hungry.  This is more of a psychological issue for me than anything.  Unfortunately at times this effects how I see myself.  There are times I fail to see my true worth.  I fall under Satan's power much of the time and find myself pitying myself and looking at myself with self-loathing.  My hair has started to grow and it is in a phase where it makes my head look like an old man.  The extra weight, with the mostly bald head and lack of breasts sometimes takes it's tole on me.  I forget at times that these things aren't what's important.

I find myself in constant prayer asking my Heavenly Father to help me not feel this way, I know deep down that I am of great worth and my womanhood is not dependent upon physical things.  I have been blessed beyond measure with a loving husband who finds me beautiful no matter what.  I have wonderful children.  They bring so much joy into my life.  I love being their mother.  Other than a few side effects, I'm handling the chemo well.  I am beating this cancer.  I am surrounded by wonderful people who are constantly there for my family.  I have a testimony of my Savior.  This brings me much peace and comfort.  I am very blessed.

So why do I let the negative aspects effect me so.  I know what truly matters, and it's not the physical.  I know that there are many that struggle with their self image.  This is one of Satan's tools to destroy us.   It is hard not to look back at what used to be when you have lost so much.  It is hard to see the eternal perspective of things.  One day all will be made right.  We will be made whole again because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  He went through all so we could have the promise of eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  He laid the path for us.  We just need to have faith and accept Him.
What a wonderful plan our Father in Heaven has for us.  He loves each of us so much.  He knows us individually and desires for us to be happy.  He knows that things will not always be easy for us, that we have our sorrows and hardships.  I am so grateful for him providing a Savior for us.  I am so grateful for having the gospel in my life.  What a great blessing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walk In The Park

I am so thrilled about how well I am feeling after this new chemo treatment.  The nurses weren't kidding when they said that the Taxol would be a walk in the park compared to the other drugs.  I feel great.  The only side effects I have experienced are from the premeds they gave me.  Of coarse they still had to give me the steroids which I begged the doctor not to.  This always gives me a bad headache.  They gave me Tylenol for that which worked well to take the edge off.  They also gave me an iv bag full of benadryl.  This pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day.  I drove myself to my appointment so needed to be extra careful driving home with that in my system.  Other than being really tired I haven't had any issues.  NO NAUSEA!!!  How awesome is that that?  That means no nausea pills which comes with their own set of side effects, constipation being the worse of them.

Our home teachers came over Sunday night and helped Steven give me a blessing.  We were concerned about getting chemo due to me being currently ill.  Steven had the flu over the weekend and gave me a taste of it, though not as bad as he had it.  Sunday I was still feeling pretty awful.  It was indeed a miracle to wake up Monday morning with little more than a sniffle.  I could get my chemo and be okay, which means no set backs.  The priesthood is a wonderful thing.  I am so grateful for the worthy priesthood holders in my life.

Monday, April 20, 2015


A few days ago my youngest daughter came up to me pretty upset.  I asked her what was wrong and her answer surprised me.  She does not want to go to second grade.  She does not think she is ready.  Although I believe this to be a pretty common fear among young kids in school, it made me reflect on my year as a mother to my girls.  I had to ask the question, have I been there as I should have for them?  This contemplation has brought me quite a bit of self-reflection.  How often have I been so wrapped up in my own worries that I have neglected to look outside myself and see the bigger picture?

Being a mother is one of the biggest and most rewarding opportunities given me.  I love being a mother.  My children have brought so much joy into my life.  So why have I put my responsibilities to them as a mother on a back burner? 

Yes, I have cancer, but have I let cancer become my life?  Looking back on these last several months since the diagnosis I would have to answer this question with a resounding “YES”.  This makes me sad for all those around me.  I have let cancer take over my life.  I have let it limit me in what I do.  I am ashamed to say that I have been playing the cancer card way too often. 

The truth is, I’m not limited.  I have more good days than bad.  So why have I stopped living my life?  I really can’t answer that question.  I honestly don’t know why.  But due to my neglect in my everyday duties, (being a wife and mother) my children are paying a price.

I neglect to help them with their homework everyday as I should.  I am often sending my older girls to do the reading with Brianna.  I am not as loving with my husband as I should be due to my own insecurities.  I have become a pretty lousy housekeeper, as one can attest just walking into my home.

I keep being told that the experiences I am having due to cancer will help me to bless others.  My thoughts seem to be that yes, this may help me to “someday” be able to bless others.  But then I feel guilty.  Why only someday?  Why not today?  There is so much that I can do to bless others’ lives.  But first I need to dig myself out of this hole that is all about me.

Do others find themselves feeling this way?  I’m sure they do.  When going through trials it is hard to see past that trial.  But I think the blessing are there more fully if we can look past ourselves and do something good for another. 

I can’t help but think of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He had more trials than any of us.  He was persecuted, spit upon, whipped and scourged.  He suffered immensely in the Garden of Gethsemane and was ultimately crucified.  But his deeds and thoughts were not for himself. They were for you and me.  He loved all unconditionally.  He forgave unconditionally.  He did all for others, not himself.  We could not ask for a better example than him.

I wish to be more like my Savior.  Looking past myself for just a moment to see those who are in need of what I can do for them.  Although I am going through some pretty rough things right now, I am still me.  I still have the capacity to love and serve.  My own personal trial shouldn't be an excuse to not think of others.  If anything my hardships should make me more compassionate, not someday, but today.  I have been blessed by so many in my life.  Others are continually coming to my aid.  I am beyond grateful for that.
Today I start a new round of chemo.  I am nervous about the side effects, but I am told that this next drug will be a walk in the park compared to the last.  So no more excuses.  If anything, I can be there more for my husband and my children.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Can Only Go Downhill From Here.... Right?

The worst is behind me!  I did it.  I finished the Adriamycin and the Cytoxan.  The Adriamycin was pretty potent with lots of bad side effects that I’m ready to have out of my system.  I have a three week recovery period and then I start the Taxol.  This chemo drug will be administered once a week for twelve weeks.  Then happily I will be completely done with my chemo. 
The Taxol I am told will be a “walk in the park” compared to what I have been given.  The only down side is that it’s every week.  I have no idea how I will react to it.  I’m truly hoping that nausea won’t be one of my side effects even though it’s considered to be a possible side effect.  Pray for me that it won’t be.  I can handle the fatigue, especially with all the wonderful sisters in my ward that visit me.
I’m so amazed at the love and service my family has received.  I have found so much comfort in those I am surrounded by.  Stronger friendships have been made and I have come to love all of them.  Thank you for that.  You are an answer to my prayers. 
I got to visit from a friend yesterday shortly after getting home from chemo.  She shared a story with Steven and I of another families trials and the testimony that was shared.  She also shared with us how others view our family at this time as being strong and an inspiration to others.  I then expressed to her my feelings.  I mentioned how most only see that side because I try my best to be positive around others.  There are so many times when I am alone that I become down.  I have those dark times where I see myself in the mirror and see only an ugly mess.  What I always took for granted before is gone.  I see ugly scars on my chest where there used to be breasts.  I feel like a drag queen when I put on my makeup and sometimes wonder “what’s the point”.  I have started losing my eyebrows and eyelashes.  This has been another blow for me.  These feeling bring me down and I know they are not what my Heavenly Father sees, nor wants me to see.  When I am surrounded by others who are filled with love for me, they do not see my lack of chest or lack of hair.  They see me.  And I am uplifted and renewed.
In Young Women’s we recite the Young Women theme every week.  It starts off with this;   “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.”  What a great reminder for all of us.  We are all his beloved children.  He looks on the heart, not our scars.  I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by those that exemplify this attribute of our Heavenly Father and of Jesus Christ.  They see my heart not my deformities.  They are all truly angles.

I want to say a big Thank you to everyone for the prayers and words of encouragement.  I could not do this without you.  I love you all and appreciated the continued prayers on both mine and my families account.  Keep them coming.  I need them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Second Round Was A Go!

My white blood cells were back up so I was able to go ahead with my chemo yesterday.  I was relieved that I didn't have to get the shot that I have been told will make my bones ache, yet it would stimulate my bone marrow to produce my white blood cells.   That being said, I was happy to not have to do that.

My son Alex took me to chemo.  I enjoyed spending time with him and I hope he enjoyed it although it took longer than usual.

All went well during the actual chemo.  No real side effects other than to the steroids.  It was good to have Alex to drive home.  He was also a great help in getting my youngest Brianna to a birthday party and picking her up later.

This round seemed to be harder on me last night.  I had the usual head ache, but the nausea was the worst.  The patch they gave me seemed to be doing very little so I got out the dreaded Compazine (which is a sedative) and started taking it.  I also took more Zofran.  I only threw up twice and was able to keep the rest down.

I also got to speak with an old friend who is big into the doTerra Essential Oil's. She sent me several samples that she thought would help me.  I used a few of them last night.  I'm hoping with use I will see some benefit.

Julie Cummings brought the kids pizza which the truly enjoyed.  I wish I could have but I know I wouldn't have been able to keep it down.  My number one priority is drinking.  I sipped water all night and continue to do so.  Alex made me so scrambled eggs this morning.  He has been a huge help, especially since Steven got sent out of town for a few days.

All in all I think I'll get through this week.  I already feel better than I did last night.

I'm getting tired and ready to lie down again so going to cut this short.  I truly appreciate all the love and prayers.  I really need them.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bye Bye Hair

I think I jinxed myself when I wrote my last post.  My hair started coming out in clumps last night.  This morning quite a bit more came out in the shower.  So I asked Steven how the girls felt about cutting my hair this morning.  Brianna was over the moon excited.  She got ready faster than I have ever seen her for school so she could help.  Ally had no interest in helping.

We rolled up the rug in the kitchen and I sat in the chair, giving free reign to Brianna and Steven.  They did a pretty good job with the whole of it.  Brianna really enjoyed herself and we got a kick out of her excitement.  Me?  I think I'm okay.  It looks like I have a five o'clock shadow on my head.

I tried out one of my new scarves and have to say I looked pretty good.  Steven and I then headed out to my one appointment for today (prosthesis fitting).  After being outside I quickly realized that a scarf was not going to cut it alone.  My head was freezing.  So after my appointment we headed to the shop at the cancer center where I get my chemo.  We bought me a turban and a hat.  My head was quite warm after that.

Overall Steven and I have had a good day.  Here's some pictures of my new head gear.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Number One Down

Well I made it through my first round of chemo.  It was definitely not what I expected and I found myself unprepared for the reality of it.

I did a lot of reading up on chemo side effects and on what to expect.  My wonderful nurse also tried to help prepare me for it.  So when my first side effect came I was baffled and confused.  I didn't read anywhere about a blinding headache.  It hurt so bad to move my head or lift my eyelids.  Poor Steven felt so helpless because all he could do is tell me he loved me from afar.  (He was in his isolation status for his Thyroid Cancer and was Radioactive.)  He did call our home teacher and asked if he could come give me a blessing.  Our wonderful home teacher and our wonderful bishop came over not long after.  I felt guilty for laying down while they gave me a blessing, but I didn't have the strength to get up.

I was given two nausea prescriptions to help me after chemo.  I asked the nurse how I should take them.  She told me I could take them intermittently or take them both at the same time.  I decided to take them at the same time every six hours as directed so as not to get confused.  I later learned that one of the nausea pills I was taking every six hours is a sedative.  I was so out of it that I did not eat or drink as I should have.  I did try.  I just had no appetite and my acid reflux was so bad that drinking water seemed to make it worse.  So I did Popsicles.

Long story short.  I ended up dehydrated and going into the emergency room on Thursday.  They kept me overnight and I was able to go home the next morning feeling tons better.  The next several days my energy level increased and so did my appetite.

This week has been great.  Other than getting tired often I have felt mostly normal.  I was told to expect to have my hair start falling out around day fourteen after the chemo.  I am now on day 11 and every little tingle on my head makes me aware of what is to come very soon.  My youngest, Brianna is pretty excited to be able to help cut all my hair off when it is time.  I'm glad someone will get some joy out of it.  I have to keep telling myself it is only hair and it will grow back.

One side effect that is becoming more and more distressing to me is that food does not taste the same.  I will crave something that I know I like only to have it, finding it doesn't taste good.  Everything is bland.  It's like there is wax over my tongue.  I have found that frozen yogurt is the exception.  I still love that.

I want everyone to know how grateful both my husband and I are to all of you.  The continued acts of service and the continued prayers are indeed felt.  I have found myself overwhelmed by the love I have felt from so many.  I have been contemplating how we are our Saviors hands.  We are the angles he sends to answer our prayers.  Because of the love you so willingly give I can feel my Savior's love for me.  Thank you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Port Troubles

It's been 3 days since I've had my port put in.  It has been red around the port site since I've come home, but I assumed it was bruising.  Yesterday I took off the clear plastic tape that was over both incision sites.  The skin felt as though it was on fire as I removed it.  I was concerned and had Steven look at it.  We decided to see if it would go away.  Today I noticed small white puss dots all over the site.  I decided to go to my doctor and have it looked at.  Apparently I had some kind of allergic reaction to either the tape or the cleaning medicine they used during the surgery.  Luckily it's just the skin that is infected.  I got an antibiotic injection while at the doctors and they sent me home with more antibiotics that I have to take for 7 days.

I'm really hoping that the infection is cleared up before Monday.  If there is any sign of infection around my port site they won't use it and I will have to get my chemo through an IV.  I was really looking forward to no more pokes for awhile. So please pray for me that this will be cleared up.

Steven came home late this afternoon after receiving his radiation.  He is now radioactive.  Brianna had a really hard time even after we tried to prepare her. She really wanted a hug from her daddy.   Daddy gives the best hugs so I know how she feels.

On a happy note.  We now officially have reservations for this summer at a KOA in Palmyra, NY.  My family is coming out from Utah and we are all going to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant.  I'm pretty excited about this trip, especially since this will be the first summer we won't be able to go to Utah for our yearly visit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Today was the fun adventure of the awake and aware surgery.  Well it really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  But this is the attitude I went in with.  For chemotherapy I have to have a Mediport, so that is what I had put in this morning.  The port looks like this.

This is attached to my chest wall and under my collar bone, then the tube is attached to a main vein that goes to my heart.  All of my blood draws, and IVs (including my chemo) will be done through this.  I am told that chemo is hard on your veins so this is the best way.  I have to say that I'm glad that they don't have to poke around anymore looking for a usable vein in my left arm.  My right arm with all the good veins is off limits due to the lymph node dissection.  

This morning Steven and I had to get up at the wee hour of 4:30.  I had to be at the hospital at 6.  So of course I woke up at 3.  Steven enjoyed a fragrant cup of hot apple cider in the truck while I was not able to even drink water.  But I didn't complain.  

When we got to the hospital, at 5:30 (we didn't take into consideration that there is absolutely no traffic at that hour).  We were taken back to the DIR a little before 6.  They then drew some blood and looked at my left arm for any usable veins for an IV.  Of course the nurse couldn't find one so they called for the IV team.  I'm glad they did because that wonderful lady got it in the first poke.  I then sat until just after 8 when I was taken to the operating room.  This is usually the point when I fall asleep.  Most of my surgeries in the past I cannot ever remember actually going into the operating room because I would fall asleep before we got there.  Unfortunately this was not the case this time.  

When in the operating room I was moved to the surgical table and they gave me more blankets.  I then had the pressure cuff added to my left arm, the oxygen thingy put on one of my right fingers, lots of stickies with wires put on my chest, sides and stomach, and oxygen put up my nose.  The nurses then proceeded to prep everything else which took what seemed a very long time.  They then called the doctor back and started preparing me.  They cleaned the area then placed folded up surgical towels all around the area.  They then put a tent over my head.  The whole time I laid there I kept waiting for the sedation.  I wanted to beg them to just knock me out.  I did not want to be awake for this.  The doctor asked me if I was feeling drowsy.  I told him I wasn't, so they gave me more sedation.  He then started the numbing shots and I said ouch. So they kindly gave me more sedation.  After this all I felt was a lot of pressure.  I had worked myself up so much while waiting for it to start.  I was so relieved to find that it was just as the doctor said it would be.  I only felt pressure, no pain.  I soon was able to relax while the doctor proceeded inserting my port.  

After 2 more hours at the hospital I was able to go home and take a very long needed nap.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wonderful Cammies

I finally got my cammies yesterday afternoon.  I was so thrilled to see the package on my door step.  It felt like Christmas all over again.

I immediately ran upstairs where I discarded my undesirable surgical bra.  I could not take it off fast enough.  I did have to pull some of the stuffing out of both sides of the cammies pockets, but then it was ready for me to slip on.  And I have to say, the sales lady wasn't lying.  The cammie is very comfortable.

I ordered 2 of them and think I may order 1 more.  I love the cammie.  The bras are headed for the garbage.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Angel Wings

One of the most annoying parts of healing from the double mastectomy is what I've been told are the Angel Wings.

This isn't what it sounds like it would be.  It is flaps under my arms that are just there to pester and annoy.  The worst part is the swelling which I'm told will go away.  At this point I feel as though they will never go away.

I guess I shouldn't complain.  After all I am only 3 weeks out from my surgery. They say that healing time is 6 weeks so I am technically only half way there.
The side that they took all the lymph nodes from actually has a dip.  It seems to catch all the peeling dead skin that I had to scrub out in the shower this morning. Lovely picture I know.

Bonus is my chest does not look as hideous as it did even a week ago, but it's still pretty yuck.

I am excited to report that I finally am getting me some camisoles.   The camisoles are to replace the undesirable post-op bra's that I've been suffering with the last 3 weeks.  I'm hoping that they are as comfortable as I've been promised by the seller.  I hate looking down and seeing nothing sticking out but my stomach.  But this is preferable to wearing the dreaded bra's I have now.  The bra's like to unsnap at the wrong times and I'm always wondering if the stuffing in them is even.  They are not very comfortable either.  So having something like the promised comfort of the camisoles is something definitely to look forward to.

Many of you are probably wondering what my next step is.  So here it is in a nutshell.

Next Tuesday, the 20th of January, I go into my Oncologists to get my port.  This is a device that they will place under my skin in my chest that will be attached to a large vein.  This is what they will use to give me all of my chemo through as well as any blood draws, ect.  This will be an outpatient procedure with very mild sedation.  I'm told it's the same sedation they use when you get a Colonoscopy.

The very next day is when Steven will start the process for his radiation.  He will go in on the 21st and the 22nd for injections and the on the 23rd they will do a full body scan which will determine the dose of iodine radiation they will be giving him.  I won't be going with him on the 23rd because he will be driving home radioactive.  I can't seem to get that song out of my head when ever I think of it.

He has started his iodine and dairy free diet today.  He is mostly just eating fresh fruits and veggies.  I am going to see what kind of things I can make him to spice up his choices a bit.  He will be on this diet until the 30th of January.  Poor Guy.

After he takes his pill that will make him radioactive he will be closed up in his room for 1 week.  He's hoping he can go to work during this time on one of the jobs where he just sits in his truck.  This way he can still bring home the bacon (which is not allowed in his diet) and also not go entirely insane from staying in our room all day.

My first round of chemo starts on Monday the 26th.  I have to say I am a bit nervous about it.  I have no idea how I'm going to react to the chemo.  They say everyone is different.  I got my 2 prescriptions filled yesterday for the anti-nausea medicine the doctor gave me.  They will also be giving me medication to help with side effects before they inject me with the poison.

The 30th I get to have a fitting for my prosthesis and bra's.  These are good bra's, not like the ones I have now.  I should be pretty much healed by then and hopefully the Angel Wings will be long gone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Catching Up

Since I am starting this late I have decided to share some tidbits from my journal.  This way you can see my thought process from the beginning, so this first entry will be a little long.  Sorry in advance.  I will start with the day I was diagnosed.
My very first thoughts were written down before I received the call that Friday afternoon.

November 14, 2014 8:30AM
Sunday night I first discovered a large lump in my right breast.  Having never felt one before I was kind of in shock.  It was such an obvious lump.  I turned to my husband and plainly said, “I have a lump in my breast.”  He was instantly concerned and said that I need to call the doctor and get it checked out.  So the next morning I called my doctor.
My doctor’s office was wonderful.  They were fully booked for that day but didn’t want me to have to wait to get in.  They bent over backwards to get me in that day.  That afternoon I went in to my doctors and she did a breast exam.  She felt the lump and mentioned how it felt fibrous.  She then refered me to Magee Women’s Hospital to have a mammogram as well as an ultrasound.  I was able to get in the next day at 10am.
At Magee Women’s Hospital I was given a pink gown and told to remove my shirt and bra.  I then went back and waited with the numerous other women there for a mammogram.  I was brought back into the mammogram room 3 different times for more pictures, all of my right breast.  Then I had my ultrasound.  The ultrasound literally took forever.  She was taking so many pictures.  I did look now and then but I had no idea what I was looking at.  It looked like grey clouds to me with black holes.  After the first round of ultrasounds the doctor told me what her findings were.  She told me that they looked to be cancerous.  She then went and got the residing doctor who came and looked at the pictures and then took more.  After the ultrasound I was able to have my husband come back where the doctors spoke with us.  The doctor (Dr. Cathy Tyma) told us that the mammogram and ultrasound looked very concerning and she wanted to do a biopsy.  She suggested we go down stairs to get something to eat and then come back up to give them time to get the biopsy set up.
Steven and I headed down stairs both in a kind of haze.  This could not be happening.  We just found out that Steven has Thyroid cancer, and me having breast cancer on top of that seems like a cruel joke.
Down in the cafeteria we both got some yummy hospital food (being sarcastic here).  Steven got a bacon cheese burger that he didn’t like and I got a pizza.  The pizza really wasn’t bad.  We then headed back upstairs with an ice-cream.
Upstairs I got called back and Steven had to wait again.
The biopsy was not fun.  They took 3 samples by making a small incision and using this tool that cut the samples out.  The first one I didn’t feel, but the second one hurt so they gave me more numbing shots.  I started feeling a little queasy after the second one.  I could picture what they were doing and it made me feel sick.  I kept hoping it would go away.   The same doctors as well as the Technologist that did my mammogram all assisted in the biopsy.   After the biopsy they inserted a small clip to mark where they did the biopsy.  It is shaped like the awareness ribbon.  They then did one more mammogram picture to make sure the clip stayed where it should be.  I was then discharged with care instructions as well as when to expect a call with the results.  I was told it takes 2-3 business days, but to expect a call on Friday.
Yesterday every time my phone rang my heart jumped into my throat.  Today it’s Friday and I am beyond nervous.  I have resigned myself to it being cancer, but I’m still hoping that it’s not.  This not knowing is the worst feeling in the world.  I have not slept well at all the last 3 nights.  All I can think about is breast cancer and what if.  Will I be able to finish my semester in school?  Will I still be able to go to Utah in January?  Will I really lose all my hair?  What about my breast? Will that have to be removed?  Well today is the day I will know.

I got the call today at about 11:30 this morning.  The waiting to know is over.  I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  I have no idea what stage or what my treatment plan is yet.  I have my first appointment next Friday which is an all-day clinic.  That will be when I meet the doctors that will be working with me as well as coming up with my plan to fight this.
When I first got the call I was not sure what to do.  It wasn’t until I hung up that I began to panic and felt as though I was going to hyperventilate.  I called Steven and couldn’t figure out how to get the words out.  He loves me so much and I know that he is so worried about me.  All I could think was how sorry I was for making him sad or worried.
I think I am in shock.  My mind is blank and I feel as though I’m in a stupor. How can this be happening to both Steven and I at the same time?  I still remember leaving the doctor’s office for Steven’s post-operative appointment learning that he has cancer.  I was shaking and having a hard keeping myself together.  I just wanted to cry.  Not my sweet Steven.  He doesn’t need this.  Now not even a full month later I am being diagnosed with breast cancer.   I keep trying to think if we had done something to cause this.  Was there a house we lived in that poisoned us?  Are our kids going to be okay?
Steven suggested to start writing some things down that I learn from this.  So far I can’t think of anything.  Maybe I will think of something tomorrow.  But today I am just numb.  I’m so tired from lack of sleep.

November 15, 2014 8:48AM
We are on our way to the Columbus Temple.  Katie and I drove to where Steven has been working and we stayed the night at the Hampton Inn there.  Steven got in late after we were already asleep.  Neither of us slept well.  For me it was not because of breast cancer thoughts, but because the pillow was very uncomfortable.  For Steven it was due to not being able to shut his brain off and because of the awful pillows.  This morning we talked about hair loss.  This is one of my biggest concerns.  Not because I’ll be losing my hair, but because then everyone will know.  I don’t want the pitying stares or to have people not wanting to look at me like they may catch what I have.  I know my hair will grow back.  The hair that I’m afraid of losing is my eyebrows and eyelashes.  Is that silly?  We will leave in an hour to go to the temple.  The youth are doing baptisms and then Steven and the Bishop will give me a blessing.  I think Steven needs one as well.  He is taking this really hard.
Is it normal that I can’t seem to cry anymore?  Yesterday while I was over at my brother and sister-n-law’s, Renea was bawling and I just sat there thinking, “Shouldn’t I be crying too?”  I haven’t been able to cry since I first found out. When I wanted to cry I couldn’t because I was surrounded by people at that time. The only real crying I have done is when I first got the phone call.  I keep thinking that I need to be strong for Steven and for my kids.  I keep wanting to reassure everyone that it’s going to be okay.  Me?  I don’t know.  I just feel like it’s not real.  I feel so numb.  Maybe this is Heavenly Father helping me, I don’t know.

November 17, 2014 8:50AM
Yesterday I was able to tell more people including my oldest daughter Chelsy.  She was the hardest one to tell.  Her being so far away and not being able to hold her was heart breaking.  I hate worrying everyone, but I need the support and the prayers.  I decided to share with a select group on Facebook in one swoop rather that tell the rest that I need to tell individually.  This was much easier for me.  It is done and I don’t have to worry about telling anymore.
Yesterday while at church I learned so much.  First off was Sacrament meeting, where the speakers spoke on gratitude.  This is after all the month of Thanksgiving.  But mostly it was about being grateful in whatever trial we find ourselves facing.  We always have something to be grateful for.  In Sunday school the lesson was on Isaiah chapter 53.  This chapter refers to all that Christ suffered for us.  This made me think of how he went through all so that he could truly understand our own sufferings.  He can be there to succor us in our time of need.  It also made me think of how through our trials we are able to more fully understand others and their sufferings.  We can more fully be a disciple of Christ and lift up those in need of love and compassion.  I am starting to see the hand of the Lord in all that has happened the last few months.  Steven was offered another job that we decided he should take, but at the last moment we both felt that it wasn’t right.  If he would have taken this job he would not be able to be home.  Also Steven being diagnosed with cancer, although not a good thing has given him the empathy for me.  He is someone that I can turn to and know that he understands my fears and frustrations.  And in turn I am beginning to understand what he went through.
I have stopped worrying so much about losing my hair.  I have started to worry more about how the chemo will make me sick.  Will I be able to take care of my girls while going through this?  I have so many questions, and wish I could get all the answers now.  The unknown is a scary place.

November 20, 2014 7:50AM
I am starting to feel my mortality.  I’m not afraid.  I just worry about Steven and the girls.  I don’t want to make anyone sad.  I was reading things I probably shouldn’t be reading at this point.  There are several articles about breast cancer in women under the age of 40.  They all say the same thing.  The survival rate for women with breast cancer under the age of 40 is quite a bit lower.  Breast cancer tends to be more aggressive in women under the age of 40.  Tomorrow is when I go in to see the surgeon.  I don’t know what stage I am in and what my treatment plan is.  But I am so nervous.  I want it to be okay, but I’m terrified they are going to tell me I’m a stage 4 and that it’s inoperative.    We are waiting to tell Allyson and Brianna until tomorrow evening when we know more.  I don’t think they will really understand.  I’m hoping I can promise them that I will get better, that I will survive this.  But I’m so scarred that I won’t.  Does everyone who goes through this feel the same way?  Am I ridiculous for speculating when I don’t know yet?  Am I over melodramatic?  I’m having a hard time concentrating on Steven and his cancer like I should be.  I should be worrying more about him.  I know that he is struggling with all of this.  I want to be near him all the time.  It is so hard when he leaves for work and I have to go a whole day without seeing him.  He is my rock and I love him more than words can ever express.  I am so grateful for the sealing we have, that we are a forever family.  I am so grateful for the restoration of Christ’s gospel and the blessings I have because of it.  I am so grateful for Jesus Christ.  I am hoping my faith will be strengthened through the trials that are ahead.  That I can have the peace that comes from him.

November 26, 2014 8:35AM
Last Friday was the all-day clinic at Magee Women’s Hospital.  The only thing I know for sure is that I do have to have a mastectomy.  I have chosen to do a double mastectomy for the following reasons.  Number one, is I do not want a repeat of cancer in the other breast.  Number two, is I want my breast to be symmetrical.  Yes, I know that the second reason is vain.  But I’m too young, and have too much life left to live.  I never thought my breasts really mattered until I am faced with losing them.
I have more tests this week.  On Friday I am having a cat-scan and a bone-scan to make sure there isn’t any cancer in other parts of my body.  On Saturday they are doing a biopsy on one of my suspicious looking lymph-nodes.  I have 4 that they can see in the mammogram and ultrasound that look suspicious.  If there is cancer in the lymph-nodes, which there most likely is, then I will have chemo. The chemo drugs that they will be using at this point consist of three drugs.  The first two will be administered through IV every 3 weeks for four rounds.  Those drugs are Adriamycin and Cytoxan or AC.  The third drug will be administered through IV after I’ve finished the rounds with the first two.  The drug is Taxol and will be weekly for twelve weeks.  After chemo I will have radiation.  I forgot how long radiation lasts.  Then six months after radiation is complete I can have my breast reconstruction.  I have chosen to use the tissue-based reconstruction. They will use the tissue from my stomach to reconstruct my breasts.  This will result in a tummy tuck and new breasts, just without nipples.  Those can be added later, but I haven’t decided.  With this surgery I will be five days in the hospital.
We are hoping that I can have my surgery for the double mastectomy on the 16th of December.  My mom is flying in on the 15th and staying until the 23rd.  I’m so excited for my mom to come.  I miss her so much and I really am wanting her right now.  I cried when she told me.  I really hope they can get me set for surgery on the 16th.
After Friday I was beyond confused.  I was hoping that we would have everything set in stone on the treatment plan.  Unfortunately it all depends on the results of the tests I’m having done this week.  Before Friday the thought of having a mastectomy didn’t bother me so much, because I thought the reconstruction would be done at the same time, but that is not the case.  I will be boob-less for over a year.  That to me is pretty depressing.  I did feel better after seeing what is out there for women who have had mastectomies.  There are even cute swimsuits.  Steven is being so wonderful through all of this.  He has been having some down days since Friday.  Not only is he worried for me, but his surgery is coming up.  In just over a week he will be having the rest of his thyroid removed.  He is worried that the cancer has spread, but we are hoping it hasn’t.  In January he will be having radiation which should kill any thyroid tissue left in his body.  I worry for him.  I am worried about his cancer and I’m worried about mine.  I worry that mine has spread.  Every little twinge or spot on my body I wonder if it’s cancer.
There have been so many wonderful people who have offered to help wherever they can.  I have taken one person up on that for Saturday.  Steven has to work so Cindy Maypole is taking me for my biopsy.  Thankfully it is here in Cranberry and we don’t have to drive clear to Pittsburgh.  I still need to make some calls to get someone else to coach Brianna’s basketball team Saturday.  That is on my to-do-list today.  That, and making lots of yummy things for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

November 30, 2014 9:10AM
Yesterday was the biopsy on one of my lymph nodes.  They did a good job numbing me up so I didn’t feel any of it.  I felt kind of queasy later on when the feeling started coming back.  I should have the result of the biopsy on Thursday.
While I was in the back waiting room waiting for my biopsy I was reading an article in the women’s journal about a woman who’s sister died from breast cancer.  The cancer had spread to her lungs as well as I think her liver.  This terrifies me.  I keep thinking what if?  The cat-scan and bone-scan should show that.  I’m hoping my doctor will have the result of that tomorrow.  The waiting game is the worst part of this whole thing.  I’m having such a hard time being patient.  I want the answers to everything right now and I know that it doesn’t work that way.  If the cancer has spread it will be a huge shock to me.  I can’t picture myself dying from this.  Maybe that is a good sign.  After all, I did have a feeling that it was cancer before we got the results from the biopsy, and I have a feeling that there is cancer in my lymph nodes, although I don’t know the results of that yet.  I am so sure though that the cancer is in my lymph nodes that I went and cut off all my hair yesterday.  My hair is a good two inches above my shoulders. Positive note on that is its light.  I also like the bounce.  Silly I know.  
December 1, 2014 6:38PM
Today has been a hard day for me.  I’ve been waiting all day to hear about the CAT scan and bone scan.  Waiting is so hard for me.  I keep imagining the worst.  I feel so bad for worrying Steven and my mom.  I called them crying today.  My nurse Beth called me finally about 4:30.  She has been in a clinic all day.  All she could tell me was that the CAT scan showed some nodes in my lungs and on my spine, but the doctor needs to look at them with another doctor.  They may need to do a PET scan.  I’m worried that this is more cancer.  I’m afraid.  I can’t help myself when it comes to searching out information on the internet.  When cancer spreads to the lungs your survival rate drops to 22%.  Maybe I am worrying for nothing.  I hope so.  I keep having a sharp pain in my chest.  Steven said it’s probably due to bruising from the biopsy.  I worry it’s something else.

December 7, 2014 9:30PM
Good news on the results from my scan results.  The doctor is not concerned about the spots that she saw, but she will be keeping an eye on them.  We did get the result on the last biopsy and the lymph node does have cancer.  I meet with Dr. McAuliffe tomorrow at Magee Women’s Hospital.  Hopefully we will have a plan in place then.
The pain I was having in my chest turned out to be anxiety.  The doctor prescribed me Xanax for it and after a few days of taking it the spasms have ceased.
Steven had his surgery this week and it went pretty good.  I felt bad that he had to share a room for his night in the hospital.  He got very little sleep due to his roommate having the TV on constantly.  He was ready to come home the next day.  It is nice having him home.
We have received so much love and support from family and friends.  I am amazed at the pure goodness of people.  I have stronger friendships and have formed new friendships that will last a life time.  I have truly come to understand what it means to love one another.  I am so grateful for the people in my life. They have become such a strong support.

December 9, 2014 8:07AM
Surgery date is set!  Yeah!  Although it’s not the date I was hoping for I feel a relief knowing that a somewhat plan is in place.  My surgery is on the 23rd of this month, only 2 days before Christmas.  I’m not sure how thrilled I am about that.  Mom is looking into changing her flight dates.  Right now it looks to be her flying in on Christmas day and leaving New Year’s Eve.  The doctor went into more detail about what to expect after surgery.  It kind of made me feel queasy talking about it.  I think that is mainly because I had no sleep the night before.  I was overly tired and had an upset stomach anyway.  She did talk about how my fat on my back and stomach will be more prominent because I won’t have my breasts anymore.  Maybe this will be a motivator for me to lose some weight.

December 10, 2014 8:21AM
My mom was able to change her flight.  She flies in on Christmas day and leaves on the 2nd of January.  I’m so relieved, I really want her here to help me.
Today I go in to the Gynecologist to have my IUD taken out.  I’m not looking forward to it, but am ready to have it done and over with.

December 22, 2014 5:40PM
Tomorrow is the day my treatment begins.  I am having a double mastectomy with a right lymph node dissection.  Although I am ready for this to start I am not looking forward to being what I have been joking about for a few weeks now, “boobless”.  I’m actually terrified.  I’m worried more about me being disgusted with myself.  Steven has been nothing but wonderful.  He keeps assuring me that he will love me no matter what I look like and I believe him.  Well tomorrow is it.  I hope that I can get over these feelings and look to the future of being able to live.

December 30, 2014 11:10AM
It’s now been one week since my surgery.  I have to admit that I do not like the slowness of the healing.  I still have the drains which right now seems to be the worst part of the whole surgery.  They have to stay in until the output is under 30 ccs for two days in a row.  Two of the drains are there, but the one from under my arm isn’t.  The one on my left side is the most aggravating.  It seems to pull all the time.  The drains also make it so that I can only sleep on my back.  I am not a back sleeper.  The pain seems to be getting higher in some ways and less in others.  The numbness in my chest is wearing off so the pain is more there.  The back of my arms and under my arms are still annoyingly numb.  It makes it hard when washing because I don’t know how much pressure to apply.  I took my second shower this morning and it feels good to be clean.  My underarms seem to be what tends to stink more than anything and that drives me crazy.  I have been comparing the smell to cumin.  To me this isn’t a great smell.
I’ve enjoyed having my mom here.  Both my mom and Steven have been so wonderful throughout all of this.  I have been totally dependent on them it seems for everything.

December 31, 2014 4:07PM
Today I got 2 of my 3 drains out.  It is a relief having those 2 out.  I’m excited that I can sleep on my left side tonight.  Hopefully Monday I can get the last one out.  I also got the actual report of my cancer.  The tumor was 8.5 centimeters.  They removed 14 lymph nodes and 5 had cancer.  Next step is chemo.

This ends the journal entries.  From this point on you can be sure to enjoy shorter posts.