Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reconstruction...check, Living healthy......check

Friday at 11am I checked in to my old familiar room at Wellstar Outpatient and got prepped for my reconstruction surgery. This time I decided that I wouldn't make such a production out of the event and even told Lloyd and Cindi to go on into work, that nurse Brittany would be in town to take me up there for the check in. I am sure all the nurses appreciated that I didn't have my usual entourage with me! I told Dr Leake I wanted itty bitty titties, so he came with a box of them to try out and see what looked best. He had to do a lot of repair to the muscle around my left underarm because that was where the cancer was, so it took a little longer than he thought it might. By the time he came out to talk to the family and tell them all what he had to do, Kristi and Lloyd were there. Cindi had come in before I was put to sleep, on her lunch hour.

This was an outpatient surgery so I got home about 6pm. I was quickly put to bed, because the move from O.R to home made me nauseated. I took the meds and went to sleep. This recovery hasn't been too bad. I am tired, VERY. Just a little uncomfortable, only took the Oxycodone Saturday and Sunday. I do have two drains, and hopefully they will come out this coming Friday. They better! I want to go to Tennessee and prop my feet up....ha ha getting pretty good at this propping stuff! Although, this surgery moves me closer back to reality of no cancer and fix the shoulder and GET YOUR ASS BACK TO Work!!!
I have said this before but I haven't touched on this aspect of change. Cancer changes you. Cancer makes you scared that it will come back and raise it's ugly head at anytime. It is now my job to do ALL in my power to assure that doesn't happen. Most of you know that I LOVE food, it is truely a passion of mine (my husbands too- hince the weight gain since our marriage!) Anyway, we make a production out of cooking. All of the cancer books I have read has warned about processed food, sugars, white flour, alcohol, and not excercising. WELL, we have eliminated all of that from our diet. (hmmmm maybe not so much the wine) It hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be, especially since one of our other passions is gardening, so we grow a lot of what we are eating. Our spring salad garden has been unbelievable this year. How many ways can you eat Radishes.... let us count the ways! I have an awesome Spicy Kale and Shrimp recipe, too!
Exercising has been another issue! I was trying to walk about 3 miles with my friend Lisa, about 3 times a week. Of course she goes out of town about as much as I do, so timing was hard. Then my knee decided it would swell because of my RA, but after this surgery and the recovery, you will see us hitting the pavement again! Plus, maybe my sister can get her pool open and I can start water aerobics! Hint Hint!!!
Anyway, if the cancer does come back, I at least can rest assured that I have choosen the most radical approach to getting rid of it (a double mastectomy and 8 rounds of chemo) and I have done what I have  needed to do to keep it at bay! Even down to changing the deordorant I use......
I have learned, this is my body and I will fight and do what I can to keep it as healthy as I can. I want to be here for my kids and grandkids!! Cancer does not need to happen to you to think this way, go check your boobs and ask yourself, are you treating your body like you need to, in order to be healthy?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to prepare for the cancer road

I was a girl scout so I know a little about being prepared- ha ha, plus I did my research as soon as I got my diagnosis. This is for anyone out there that may be dealing with a new diagnosis of breast cancer and may want to know how to be prepared.

1. Do your homework- Talk to friends who have been through it, see whatthey did and what they would have done different. Go to the internet and be educated is a great resource for asking questions of others that are going through the same thing.

2. Be ready for Dr's visits- have a tape recorder, because you will not remember what was said. Take a friend or family member (sometimes a friend is better because they aren't typically as emotional as a family member). Stand up for what you want- I WANTED a bilateral mastectomy, even though my dr told me she recommended a lumpectomy. I knew I would be paranoid about it coming back if I wasn't as agressive as I could be (ok, I am still paranoid, but I don't think I am as bad as I would be with just having the lumpectomy)

3. Be ready for after your surgery- I had a dbl mastectomy so to prepare:
a.I bought a recliner to sleep in, if I needed to. It was also a lifesaver during chemo!
b.I had pjs that buttoned up and had my mom sew pockets in them to hold the drains
c. I had a long bead necklace to safety pin the drains to while I showered
d. I had two round oblong pillows to put on either side of me when I slept, so I wouldn't roll over on my side.
e. I had everything placed within reach before my husband went to work. Like my coffee cup, bowls and a plate. I wasn't able to reach in the cabinet.

4. Share your story- this helps not because you are getting sympathy, but you will have prayer warriors and they will all be a means of support. You will feel like you have to be a shining example and be strong for your supporters. Being strong is half the battle!

5. Surround yourself with friends- continue to go out, be around people and keep a sense of humor. Laughing through this whole journey is the best medicine.

6. Make an adventure out of chemo- ok, so not everyone will be like me and my "chemo army" - we had army hats with a pink ribbon on it, we took food to the patients and nurses, we made posters for the wall (a Luke Bryan one, and it is my understanding it is still hanging in the infusion room), we met everyone in there just about and offered encouragement, We took our Gnome and photographed each treatment to keep track. We LOVED our nurses, we rocked out to a "mixed tape" of our chemo songs on the way, Pack a blanket, water bottle, candy if the taste bothers you, a special prayer to read, and a really fun friend to pass the time with you!

7. Prepare yourself for the after effects of chemo-
a. your hair- more than likely you will lose your hair, come to grips with it- embrace your inner warrior and don't be ashamed of losing your hair. I never wore a wig. The medically induced menopause made me hot, even wearing a hat I would have to shed it at the dinner table. I didn't think it would be appropriate to take off a wig and put it on the table! Plan a shaving party and take control of when, where, and how you will lose your hair.
b. chemo brain- you will have this- write things down, take your time speaking and explain to strangers why you can't think of the words you are trying to say.
c. Food- try to eat well. You will need protein and lots of nutrients. The ACS and your hospital will have support groups and classes you can take.
d. Looking Good- go to classes on how to keep your self esteem Look Good Feel Better is a class through the ACS, it is a great one that teaches how to apply your makeup and take care of your skin. Chemoflage is another class offered and it is really good too, you also will receive awesome swag bags when you go to the classes. Eye makeup is VERY important when you are bald!!

8. Your baskets of necessities-
a. claritin- no one tells you, but this helps with the bone pain associated with Taxol and the Nulesta
b. nausea meds- take them after chemo, BEFORE you get sick
c. pain meds- take them BEFORE you start to hurt
d. hand sanitizer
e. journal- keep track of symptoms to share with the dr at the next visit, or for your info on what helps when you get sick
f. themometer-
g. hemoroid wipes- all the above medicine will cause hemoriods
h. stool softner- for the above reason

9. Remember-
a. you will feel good again- after my last treatment, I actually feel better than i did before my diagnosis
b. your hair will come back- granted it may not be like it was before, but it's back
c. you are awesome for fighting this fight!

I hope these ideas help you, if you are having to go down this road.  I would love to see other survivors share their ideas, too! Please comment below- and God bless you on this journey!!

Back again, this time with a ramble!

I am sorry I haven't written in a while, to be honest I was busy "living life" and ignoring the fact that I had cancer! I finished treatment and tried to figure out how to go about my life as a "cancer survivor". I realized that this diagnosis can not be ignored, not matter how much my hair grows back or that surgery or chemo is over. I felt stronger and started walking 3 miles about 3 or 4x's a week. I soon realized that my RA was not in remission and that I will need to go back to the weekly shots- not the news I wanted to hear, because those shots can cause cancer and I am TERRIFIED of getting it again. I went to a support group to try to deal with my "new life" and as soon as I heard the story of the young lady who had breast cancer return in her bones, I couldn' t go back. I'm scared and I don't want to hear that my fears are justified. I look in the mirror and I don't see myself, I see a different person who now has gray very short hair and it brings back to light, that I had cancer. Coming to the realization that I will never be the same person I was before has been difficult, but then again; if I come out a BETTER person, it might be worth it! Please realize, if you meet anyone that has had cancer, they are going to be different than they were before. They will think deeper, care more, laugh louder, and love harder than the average person. But also know, underneath that strength and vitality is someone that knows they should make the most of every day for they are scared that in the blink of an eye there won't be another one! That is what I have been doing, making the most of every day!!!
Now it is time to deal with my next breast cancer road- Friday I go in for the removal of my tissue expanders, the removal of my port and the placement of my implants. This is not a road I EVER thought I would be on. I have had large breast since I was in 9th grade and never once thought I would be going in for silicone implants! I had often wished for a reduction, but the amputation I went through in October was not a wish that was granted well! Let's all just hope that Dr Leake picks out some cute little perky ones that I will be happy with!!! ha ha
As with any surgery, I don't know where this road will lead. I have heard horror stories about the implants, I have heard people say it was not that bad, but I have also learned to be prepared in the event something does go horribly wrong. Hell, I hope that is how everyone lives their life anyway- as if something could go horribly wrong at any time! Live each day as if it is your last and make an impression on anyone you meet! New motto, live like Tim Hunt! He passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago and he died "a good man". He lived each day being nice to everyone and I don't know if he knew what he was doing, or if he intentionally tried to make an impression on everyone he met, but he sure did! Maybe it's because he had been given so many new chances at life, he survived stage 4 cancer 20 years ago, had multiple heart attacks, and various other health problems- maybe he knew the VALUE of LIFE! It's sad it takes an illness or a diagnosis to learn this value.
I have tried to teach my kids to live life to the fullest, to respect themselves, not to waste time and not to "settle". If I can also now impress upon them to be a "great person" to make a good impression and to be "nice" to everyone that they come in contact with.....even the mailman- I have done a damn good job as their mother! They are my greatest accomplishment and I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to be their mother, I am blessed!