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.  

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