Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In the morning, I get to meet my Plastic Surgeon. I am a bit nervous. They will show me pictures of before and after reconstruction. And of course, discuss all the "options". It just seems as though we go over and over and over, the "options".

This has been a long week, with something everyday and yes, I am tired. Because I am tired, I am way more emotional than I should be. I know this. I feel very "weepy", and I know why, but that doesn't seem to make it any easier to deal with! My sister, Beck, and my mom got back to Herky on Sunday afternoon around 4 o'clock. I drove up there to spend the night at mom's, since Beck's flight left St. Louis at 8:15 a.m. Mom's AC was not working, and it was 80+ degrees in the house! We bumped it down to 65, then went outside to sit in the swing, to allow the house to cool down some. After many trips in the house to check the progress, we finally decided to go grab some supper somewhere cool. After we returned to the house, it was still hot. I called Keith, we ran through some things to try, but nothing was working, and everything seemed to be in order. I finally, reluctantly, called Frosty. I hated to call him on a Sunday evening, but by this time, I knew church was over, and we were sweating! He assured me he could come over in the morning. In the meantime, I shut the ac down, and opened some windows, turned on the attic fan, and cooled the house down to about 70! Praise the Lord! Some dear friends came by and stopped in for a visit. We so enjoyed spending some quality time with Lloyd and Ada, with some good conversation. Once they left, mom was ready to close the windows, since "we can't leave them open all night". Oh well... We turned off the attic fan, closed all the windows, and mom wanted to turn the air back on. She was not convinced it was not working. After her and Beck went to bed in mom's room, I took my pillow and laid on the floor beside the vent. Air is air, and at that point, I just wanted to feel some air blowing in my face! I slept off and on all night, and finally it was time to get up and get ready to take Beck to the airport. We were up, dressed and walking out the door by 5:45 a.m. Mom had opted to stay home. Beck and I stopped at the bottom of the hill to grab some much needed coffee before heading north on 55 towards the airport. We had good conversation on the way up, and that was really the first time we had the opportunity to talk at all, without mom. Before I knew it, we were pulling into the East Terminal, and it was time for Beck to get out and head towards security. I truly miss my sister and the opportunity to have good old heart to heart talks. After I let her out, I made one stop to pick up something from my brother-in-law's house, then headed south on 55 towards home. I pulled up my driveway at 8:30 a.m. I went straight to the deck, where my grandson and his "Cousin Emma" were playing. Ruger had spent the night with us! My husband decided to fix us a big country breakfast with farm fresh eggs. Man oh man, it was good eatin'!! We enjoyed just chilling on the deck watching the kiddos play. Eventually, we started up the grill and grilled some salmon, and chicken and pork steaks and brats. Jenna, my daughter that lives with Kelly in St. Louis, and her boyfriend, Cole was down. My daughter Jessica had a friend that had spent the night as well, and Kate had a friend spend the night, so our house was full of teenagers and young adults!! Another one of our spontaneous Govero parties! Later on that afternoon, after everyone had scattered across the farm riding 4 wheelers, and fishing, we got a phone call from our neighbor down the road, Hildon. He was having some chest pains, and wanted to know if Keith could drive him to the hospital. Of course!!!! So, I grabbed my hair, put my shoes on, and out the door we ran. We grabbed Hildon and Peggy and drove them up to Festus to the ER. They have 2 daughters that are nurses, and they work at Jefferson Memorial, so that is where he wanted to go. On the way, we called them, so they were waiting for us when we pulled in. We all sat in the waiting room of the ER, while the girls took turns going back to be with Peggy and Hildon. Finally, around 11pm, Peggy came walking through the double doors, and informed us that they were going to keep him overnight for some more tests and observation, and that she was ready to go home. We drove Peggy back home, went in with her, got her settled in her house, and then we drove to our house, and two very tired people walked into our bedroom and I don't remember much after that. I do remember seeing the clock turn 12:15! This morning, the phone began to ring way too early for me and my husband. But, his contractors wanted to talk to him first thing this morning. Before I knew it, he was up, getting dressed, and walking out the door headed to work. Needless to say, I have been moving way slow today. Lots of research on the internet, comparing results and opinions on surgery, radiation and the timing of it all. I just wish someone else would make all these decisions for me. They are too hard. I know I am so emotional because I am still so tired. Hopefully, tonight, I will get a good night sleep, and tomorrow will be a good day and I will be ready to deal with the surgeon and the chemo and the oncologist appointments. Pray for me. It will be a long day........

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey there folks! I hope you all are having some good weather at last! We have had a full week of sunshine this week, and my husband has worked every day. Praise the Lord!! It has been a crazy busy week though for us all. All this good sunny weather, has made the hay fields pop, and believe it or not, it is time to cut hay. If you are wondering why I have not been on here for updates, it is because life is crazy busy at this time. But, I have received several emails and phone calls from friends asking, what is going on in my life?? Without going back to the website, and actually reading what I have shared and what I have not, I will attempt to bring you all into the loop, and update you at the risk of possibly repeating myself. I have decided to do a radical right mastectomy without immediate reconstruction. My surgery date has been decided, and it is set for June 26th. They are telling me that since I have decided not to do immediate reconstruction, the surgery will only last about 2 and 1/2 hours. Yippee!! But, they still expect me to spend the night, for observation after surgery. We met with the surgeon Wednesday, signed all the consent forms, and got instructions on what to expect with surgery, recovery, time schedules for radiation, etc. They give me a "window" every time, like we like to allow from "2 to 4 weeks" between chemo and surgery, and we like to allow from "3 to 4 weeks" between surgery and radiation, then radiation has to be 6 weeks, un-interrupted. I pressed for the minimum every time. If I was given 2 to 4, I said, "Let's go with 2 weeks." They commented, every time I give you a window, you take the least. I said, "If it is not an option, don't give it to me." I feel like this walk has been a walk that I have been steadfastly walking, climbing, and I don't see why I need to fearfully walk it. God is with me, God is the one in control of this situation, from start to finish. I have had that peace since day one. I have not one day, felt as though I was "dying from breast cancer" as much as I was "living with breast cancer". I have not experienced the fear aspect of leaving my family. I know that God has a plan here, I don't know what the plan is, but then again, I don't need to know the plan. Whatever His purpose is for using this Breast Cancer in my life, or someone else's life, I am totally trusting God. It's just a bump in the road. Because of how hectic this last couple of weeks has been, both for me and my husband and his business, not to mention the farm, on Tuesday night, the decision was made for me to find someone else to go with me to chemo on Wednesday. I tried to urge him that I didn't feel the need for a babysitter, but he said it would make him feel better if I had someone with me. So, I made a couple of calls, and my daughter, Kelly, ended up meeting me at the hospital and went with me to the surgeon's appointment, and then to labs, but by the time it was time for chemo, she had to leave for work. Which is fine, considering I sleep through that anyway. While the nurses were getting me all hooked up, we were chatting, they always ask about my family, and how the side effects are going,etc. Apparently, the young girl sitting across from me was listening. Because when she got up to leave, she laid a piece of paper on my tray table and walked out without saying anything. This young girl looked to be in her 20's, low 20's. I picked it up to read it. She had written a small page out of her journal, encouraging me! She shared that every flower that blooms has to go through a lot of dirt before it blooms, but it gets there, and that I would get there as well. She then had included a verse in Romans about Hope, and Character and Strength. I felt like an angel has just ministered to me! What a sweet thing for that young girl to do. I told the nurses what she did and began to ask a little about her. I know they won't share anything too personal, but they did share that she comes everyday, and yes, she has cancer. Not breast cancer, but cancer. I was reminded again, this place that I go every Wednesday is full of cancer patients. And not all of them have as good a prognosis as me. Some of them are terminal, and they know it. I remember when we were going through this cancer stuff with daddy, I would tell people, anytime you think you have it tough, spend a day on the oncology floor at any hospital. It helps you put everything in perspective. It will always make you once again, appreciate the blessings you do have in your life, that you tend to take for granted. Blessings like just being able to drive your car. I remember that was what daddy said he missed and didn't realize he would. He would watch out the window of his hospital room, and watch the cars come and go up and down the highway, and say, I miss being able to just get in my car and drive anywhere I want. It's the little things that so many who are dealing with cancer have to give up. The personal independence is a biggy. I see so many coming in on Wednesdays, that are needing assistance, needing help in and out of their wheelchairs. All of it is just so familiar. What breaks my heart, is seeing the people come in alone, in their wheelchairs, doing it all by themselves. Where is their family? Not everyone has family to depend on. I am grateful that my daddy, as he was walking the cancer path, he was surrounded by his family and friends, and there was always someone there to help. I am equally grateful, that I am walking this cancer walk, again, I am surrounded by my family, and there is always someone there to help. When my daughter-in-law heard that I was going to chemo alone, she said, "Why didn't you call me? Call me next time, I will go!" Sometimes I just don't even think about the people that I could call, and that would be willing to go with me! God has just blessed me beyond words through this whole thing. I have always felt his presence. I have always felt the peace that passes all understanding. Even when I am in the surgeon's office, and they are trying to mess with my focus, it doesn't take me long to get back to God, and get that reassurance, that no matter what "they" say, I know the Great Physician, and I know that I know, He's got this!! As I sit here on my deck this morning, the breeze is blowing, I can see my finches and blue birds eating out of my bird feeders. I can see and hear the buzz of my hummingbirds, and enjoy their playful antics as they empty my feeders. And as I look out across my yard, I can see my roses blooming this year, in greater abundance than any previous year. Life is good and full of opportunities to thank God for His blessings. Yesterday, I drove up to pick up my sister, Beck, from the airport. My niece, Sarah "Bean", is graduating high school in Chicago. I could not make the trip to take mom, so Beck flew into St. Louis, instead of Chicago. She will drive her and mom to Chicago today. They will spend some time together in the car, making the 6 hour road trip to see Lois and her family, and share this special time. Then on Sunday, they will come back to St. Louis. I am planning on spending the night with mom on Sunday night, because Beck's flight leaves at 8:15 am on Monday morning! Yea, do the math. That means we will be leaving mom's at 6am! Beck's flight came in yesterday at 12:40, so once we picked her up, we went to lunch at the restaurant where my daughter, Jenna, works and had a wonderful meal. We then stopped at the South County mall, where mom returned the dress that Beck had gotten her for Mother's Day, because mom thought it was too long. We thought it looked good on her, but unless mom likes it, she won't wear it, so with Beck with us, we took mom to J.C. Penney's and had a girl day shopping at the mall! It was fun, I do admit!! We laughed together, as mom tried on dresses and finally settled on one that looked great on her and she liked it as well! It was green and mom looks good in green!! Beck took care of the return credits and exchange and we were out the door and in the car headed home by 3:30 or so. It was a full day, but it was a wonderful day. I truly enjoyed spending the day with my mom and my sister. Memories I will cherish forever. We don't get to do that very often, not near often enough. I love to hear mom picking at us, picking at me, teasing with each other. Just being normal mom. It was a good day. I truly hope that she has a good time with Lois and her family, and Beck this weekend and everyone enjoys each other's company and makes great memories!! Pray for them folks!! I have to run, now, my husband ran off and left his phone here at home today, and has called asking me to come up early today and bring it to him. I have an appointment this afternoon up there, but I guess I will get going and head up early to take my husband his phone. Ya'll have a great day! I'm doing great!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I feel the need to warn you that today's post may be a tad long. I feel the need to vent about yesterday's all day doctor visits. We were at Barnes/Siteman Cancer Center/Center for Advanced Medicine, parked and walking in the door by 7:55am. My first doctor visit was with the surgeon that will be doing my mastectomy. I knew we were going to be discussing my options, and that he would want to know my thoughts, and yes, I don't mind telling you I was a bit anxious, nervous, whatever you want to call it. I don't know what I want to do! Like I have shared before, so much of this is all mixed up with "self image", "outward appearance", etc. Well, we go back into this examination room, I am handed my "pink gown", which is becoming all too familiar, and after I am examined, we discuss pros and cons of doing mastectomy, bi-lateral, vs, just the infected breast. We then discuss immediate re-construction, vs. waiting the 9 - 12 months like my oncologist suggested. During this part, I got so very emotional, and even began to cry! Yes, me! I just am not ready to make these decisions. Keith said, he thought it was because I was tired, as I have not been sleeping well these past few nights, trying to get myself ready for this very appointment. I knew they would want me to tell them what I wanted, and I don't know what I want! After a long visit, lots and lots of discussion, the surgeon decided I needed to actually meet with a plastic surgeon, who will actually be in charge of the re-construction part of the surgery. Apparently, this surgeon that I was meeting with is only in charge of the mastectomy part. He can take them off, but doesn't specialize in putting them back together. And before they can put together the surgical team, they need to know who the players will be, aka what players I will need. If I am going to wait, and not do reconstruction until later, then they won't need the plastic surgeon on the team. After all this discussion, they escort Keith out to the waiting room again, and move me into the mammogram area to do yet another mammogram to check the progress I am making with the chemo. After all the chemo I have had, they are using the phrase "dramatic response". In other words, they like the way my body is responding to the chemo. The lumps can no longer be felt by physical examination! And the sore is gone and healed up nicely. Of course, all that said, they are quick to remind me that it doesn't change the course of treatment. They do the chemo first, in hopes that the tumors shrink, but even if they shrink to nothing, as they often do, we will still do surgery to remove the breast tissue. Because, that is the only way to be completely sure how much cancer was there to begin with, how much is still there, and if it has traveled through the lymph nodes. They told me that they are leaning towards removing all the lymph nodes on the right side, just to be on the safe side, because of the original size of the tumor. They have measurements they go by, if it is this size they do this, if it is this size, they do this, etc. And because of the size of my original tumor, they said from the start, not a lumpectomy, but a mastectomy. And yes, removal of lymph nodes, regardless of whether they find lymph nodes involvement. So, no "sentinel lymph node testing", removal of all on the right side. Possible sentinel lymph node testing on the side without cancer. After the mammogram, I am escorted back to the surgeon's exam room, Keith is brought back in, and we discuss the findings of the mammogram. Even though they cannot feel them with physical exam, there are still some lurking in there, which means they are insitu (?), meaning those particular cells don't respond to chemo at all, which is the "why" behind the surgery. Leaving the insitu there is like leaving a root to grow back at a later date. They must be surgically removed. So, there you have it. We discuss a little more on the options, him still suggesting the immediate re-construction, because of what the radiation will do to the skin, making it a little harder to work with later. Blah..... I was so ready to move on to the next appointment, and having to use an extreme amount of self-control in not telling him, I get it, I know what you want, so can we move on now? Those of you that know me well, know that I have never been one to do what they (the docs) suggest. Teehee. Like when I did have my babies in the hospital, I did not want a fetal monitor, I did not want to remain laying in the bed, I wanted to get up and walk the halls, let gravity help!! Here I am, having to put up with their routine practices, what they like to do, normally, in this situation, blah blah blah. After, earlier, they liked to throw the phrase around "we like to customize our treatment plan to each individual case". Yea, do I need to bring my tape recorder back in here?? I go back and forth from "somebody else make the decision, tell me what to do, and I will do it", to "don't tell me what is routine, what you like to do. I don't give a rip what you like to do! This is my body, it is not normal, obviously! You keep commenting how remarkably I am responding to treatment, therefore, something about my body must be slightly different?? Can we discuss slightly different options? Grrrrr. Ok, that being over, it is now 10:30am. Yes, been in there with that doctor since 8:15 am. Now, we move from 5th floor, to 7th floor, to get signed in for my blood work/labs appointment for 11 o'clock. We thought we might have time in between for some lunch, nada. We get in for labs, and she asked me when I last applied my lidocaine for my port. Uh, maybe before my surgeon appointment, like 7:30 am or so? She laughed, and I said, how long does that stuff stay active? She said, well, hmm, I don't know, I have never tested it past an hour. Usually, our patients put it on about an hour or so before their labs. I don't think I have ever had a patient that put it on three and a half hours before. I'm sure it will be fine. I laughed and said, I watch Lie to Me, you just lied to me! Every muscle in your face just reacted to that statement! So, she grabbed that needle to poke into my port, and said, ready, one two three, and poke. I didn't feel a thing! So, we both laughed and said, well, now it has been properly tested, it will stay effective for over 3 hours!! She taped me up, and I then moved over to get checked in with my oncologist, Dr. Ellis. Yes, it is now 11:30. We get called back there rather quickly, and I get weighed in ( I lost 2 pounds!!!!! Woohoo!!!!). That's a whole different story. I expected to lose weight through this, and the steroids are helping me put it on! Yuk side effect. The nurse escorts us to the exam room, where I am handed yet another pink gown, and told what to do with it, LOL. The doctor comes in, and does a physical exam, again, tells me how wonderfully I am responding to treatment. The down side to that is, that every week that I tolerate these drugs well, they up the dosage. With the end result, of course, seeing how much they can give me before I actually start complaining! After the examination is done, they exit, telling me I can get dressed and they will all come back in and we will discuss our options. Oh no!! More options?? This is the 6th treatment of 12, so apparently at the half way point, we discuss what we have left, how much time, and where we go after that. I have not actually met with the radiology doctor yet, so I am still rather clueless to that procedure, and that came out in our discussion. When they said that I was to remain on herceptin for a year, they informed me that even after we finish this next 6 rounds of chemo, I would still be coming up here at least once a month for herceptin in the infusion room. Ok, I am ok with that, not liking it, but ok with it. Then I asked about radiation, and the frequency of that. DAILY!! Bejeebers, I was not prepared for that. The length of time would be determined by the radiology doctor, but it could be daily for a week. Which, I know, sounds like such a short amount of time, but I live an hour and a half south of the treatment location! So, I may ask them if I have an option of driving to Farmington for radiation. I happen to know and pass a couple buildings that actually say Radiation Therapy on their signs. I will definitely be asking them about that! 15 miles is way better than 75 miles. Anyway, we discussed what the surgeon had told me that morning, what his suggestions were, about immediate reconstruction. My oncologist did not agree. He wants me to wait 9 - 12 months, not put anything in there that might introduce infection. And even though there are those that don't have any problems with immediate reconstruction, there are just as many that do, so "how do you Americans put it, it's a crap shoot!" He went on to share that he had just spoke in front of 900 breast surgeons in California, and he took a vote. How many favor immediate, how many favor waiting, and he said, it was about even. So, he felt like it was opinion, not science. He favored dealing with the cancer first and foremost. Do whatever is necessary to removing that threat from my body. Then once the body has fully recovered, skin and incisions have fully healed, and then some, you can always go back and do reconstruction. But his suggestion was to put time, alot of it, in between mastectomy and reconstruction. That cuts down on the risk of infection, not to mention what radiation does to the reconstruction efforts. So, if I could just be patient, my body will, eventually, look normal, or at least close to normal, patience is the key factor here. Those that tend to get in a hurry, usually deal with complications and issues that those with patience don't have to deal with. Duh, there is wisdom in that statement, outside the cancer realm!! Anyway, once we were done with all that, we were then free to leave, and walk across the hall to the chemo labs. I sign in, we sit in the waiting area, and I decide to open my computer to maybe get a quick look at my email. (They have wireless up there!) And yes, there, in my email room, in the form of a devotional from Love Worth Finding, was this:

Daily Devotional from Love Worth Finding Ministries
BIBLE MEDITATION:"... even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."1 Peter 3:4b
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:Are you a woman struggling with the way you look? We all know that women want to be beautiful, especially to their husbands and boyfriends, but so often women think that beauty is found at a cosmetics counter, on a dress rack, or in a jewelry box. Those things are corruptible, and what's in vogue today is out of fashion when next year's supermodels hit the runway. The only thing that will make you more beautiful, day after day, is what you nurture within yourself - serenity. The ornament of a meek and a quiet spirit is worth far more than even the most expensive jewel you can wear around your neck.
ACTION POINT:Stand in front of the mirror today. Imagine Jesus by your side, and ask Him to create in you a gentle and quiet spirit of love.

Yes, I checked the date, thinking, this can't be today's thought. How wild is that?? But there it was, in my email, on the very date that yes, I am a woman struggling with the way I look!! I'm telling you, the tears began to flow, again. Agreed, I was already emotional to the hilt, but to know that even today, in the middle of this path I am on, God knew what I needed right then, right there. And BAM BABY, there He was, to remind me what I needed to focus on, what I needed to "hear" from Him. My focus had definitely been shifted to my outer appearance, even to the point of messing with my oncologist's recommendations to wait, and be patient. I had let the surgeon get in my head, and convince me that to have a better cosmetic outcome, I needed to go with immediate reconstruction. I hear you Lord!!! Thank you!! When they did finally call us back to the infusion room, Pod 3, set me in a chair, I opened up my laptop and re-read it, and yes, started crying again at the amazing miraculous email. The nurse came by, and offered me a box of tissues, "honey, do you need a tissue?" I laughed, "I am ok, really, better than ok, just tears of amazement, and gratitude." Of course, they then hooked me up to the Benedryl, and out I went, 5 minutes, from shooting that stuff in there, to slurred speech, and Keith taking the laptop off of my lap, LOL! Not before me trying to say something to him, and him having to say, "What? Say it again? Slowly....never mind. Babe, close your eyes. We'll talk about it later." LOL! That stuff is crazy powerful stuff, and I don't mind telling you, I like it! But with everything going on in my head, I still only slept for about an hour, instead of the 3 hours. I told him, even with Benedryl, through the veins, way too much in my mind today to shut my mind down apparently. Double the dose!! Last nite, I took Lorazepam, the sleep aide they gave me. Which is why, this morning, Jessy came and told me, that when my four old, Emma Jean, was up last nite, throwing up, and crying for mommy, she came in and tried to wake me up, and said, she couldn't wake me up!! Geez, I won't take that stuff again!! My sweet Emma, crying for mommy, and my daughter having to say, mommy is sleeping, and I can't wake her up! I said, did you shake me? Well, no, but I stood by your bed, and said, Mom! Mom! Mom! You didn't even stir. So, I just dealt with her. Thank you Jessy. So, today, I am spending sitting on the couch, trying to rest some from yesterday's long ordeal. I am on the computer, reading, researching again, reading the community posts from my favorite breast cancer website. I prefer to talk to those girls that are walking this same walk, asking them, what they did, why they did it, and now what would they change, if they could. If they had it to do over, what would they would do. How long their recovery was. On there, you can always find someone, whose numbers are exactly like yours, same age, same diagnosis, "negative, negative, positive", same Grade, same stage, etc. Yet, find 50 different paths they took, and how they dealt and what their outcomes were, and compare. And not only that, how their husbands dealt, their family dynamics, so to speak. I have found it to be very helpful and informative. And of course, have met friends on there that are walking the same path, at the same time as me. Kind of like having a support group, and not have to leave home to join in. I will get on here and post more about my "other" life later. Last weekend I went up and got my mom, brought her down here and she spent the night at my house for the first time ever!! I will fill you in on those details later. As for now, today, I will leave it all cancer talk. Pray for me.........