Family...the ones you live with, laugh with, and love

Family...the ones you live with, laugh with, and love
Summer 2009

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Radiation is Over!

Several people have been asking me where I am at in my treatments so I thought I should post an update.

October 14th I finished radiation. In all I ended up having 25 treatments. Looking back I really don't know how I managed to get to the hospital at 7:00 a.m. and then go and teach 1st graders each day. Wow! I still am amazed that Steve and I was able to make it work out. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who supports me through all of this. Steve was able to go into work a little later each day which allowed him to take the kids to school for me. I think he really enjoyed having that 25 minute drive to school in the morning with the kids. He says he misses the chats they had. It is one of those things I take for granted. How lucky I am to get that alone time with my kids during the morning drive.

Radiation was actually not that bad. It was more or less just an annoyance to have to go every day. But the radiation itself didn't hurt. I didn't even notice burns until about the 3rd week and because of the doctor's great advice of using aloe vera, the burns were not that severe. It ended up being more like a bad sunburn. The muscle under my arm was a little sore because the radiation went deep into the muscle as well. But with time that has gone away. Now that it has been over a month, I really don't notice any side effects.

Overall I am doing quite well. I probably feel the best I have felt in 11 months. My energy is returning, my emotions are getting better and my hair has even starting growing back. It is nothing to brag about and I am still wearing hats, but it is growing. Now I am looking forward to having time to heal both emotionally and physically.

The next phase of this cancer road is taking a hormone blocker medication called Tamoxifen for 5 years so that cancer can't reoccur. The worst part of the medication is the hot flashes. I am grateful that it is winter right now, but man summer is going to be brutal! My oncologist also said I can have my port-a-cath removed whenever I am ready. Since it is still a small surgery I think waiting until after the holidays will be the best time to have it removed. Then the final step is reconstructive surgery. The Radiologist Oncologist suggested I wait 3-6 months to make sure all the tissue has healed after radiation. So waiting is what I will do. I hope to have something planned for spring or early summer. For now I am content. Surgery is not fun at all so waiting sounds pretty good. But it will be nice to be somewhat back to normal.

So far it has been a very hard journey, one that I never want to go on again. But looking back I have been very blessed with so many people to help me and love me through this journey. I am thankful for so much in my life. Here are some thoughts that was given to me that I think says so much.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness,
you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation,
you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death,
you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace,
you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful,
you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder,
you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing touch.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over
two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways you may never even know.

With Love,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For the last couple of months we have been consumed with FOOTBALL. I don't think we realized what we were getting into when we first signed Seth up. Yes practice EVERY DAY for 1 1/2 hours. And then 3 hour games on Saturday. Wow what a shocker. Our second son Seth is quite the football player. This year he played center and even tried his hand at quarter back a couple of times. He loves the sport and I have to admit I love watching him play. What we do for our children.

This year it was a little more challenging to get him to practice every day because of surgery, which I had his first week of practice during the drafts. Then having to go to radiation everyday was also a little tricky, but we managed to get it all in. It was actually quite nice to go and SIT and watch him practice each evening. Sitting and watching is not usually something I get to do much, so this year it was nice to get that opportunity.

It was also fun to get to know a lot of the other moms from the team. We became quite close actually. I guess spending so much time at practice can make people become close.

All together Seth's team ended up playing 7 games with the last being played on October 2nd. It is that last game that will stick with me forever. It is not because my son played an outstanding game or scored the winning touchdown, it is because of the touching gesture that was made by the boys from his team and by his coaches and coaches wives.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month the boys decided that they wanted to do something special for their last game. They decided to wear "the pink cancer ribbon" on their helmets in my name. How touching that was to see 20 young men with those pink ribbons placed on their helmets with such pride. Not one young man was ashamed to wear pink. They held their heads high and wore it with pride.

Before the game each football player and coach was given a pink balloon. Just before the game the balloons were all released. How touching it was to see all those balloons fly through the sky. I can't describe to you the feeling that was present before that game. It didn't matter if we won or lost that game because we all had such pride that day!! What an outstanding group of people!

Friday, September 10, 2010


I started my journey of radiation therapy this week, but first I had to undergo some initial preparations. Last week during a 4 hour appointment I met with Dr. Ingersoll so she could explain the treatment that would take place during the next 6 weeks. I was then taken into the radiation room, placed on the table and raised a few feet in the air. The radiation therapist placed a big rubber band around my feet and then jokingly told me it was so I wouldn't kick him. My arms were positioned above my head in a cradle type thing with my hands gripping some sort of post. Several laser beams were lined up across my chest making sure that everything was in position and then I received my 5 "tattoos". (The part I was dreading the most.) I have to admit it was probably a good thing that my feet were tied together so I couldn't kick him because OUCH it really did hurt! The worst part is that he did it by hand with a needle. A needle that was bored into my skin to make a hole. A hole that was filled in with ink to make it permanent. Because of this pain I have no intentions of ever getting a real tattoo...not that I ever did anyway. In reality they look nothing like a tattoo. Just 5 tiny little pin pricks with blue ink, as small as a freckle. Five little dots that will be with me forever, a constant reminder of the many challenges I have had to face during the last few months.

I was then taken down the hall to have a CT scan so they could map out the part of my body that needs to be radiated. This is how the doctor decides on a treatment plan. Since it does take some time to devise the plan, I had to wait about a week for my first actual treatment.

Everyday (M-F) for the next 6 weeks I will drive 35 minutes from Syracuse to McKay Dee Hospital. I have chosen to go early in the morning at 7:00 so my treatments don't interfere with my kids' daily activities after school. I think the morning drive will be good for me. It will give me time alone to reflect on how far I have come on my cancer journey. Each treatment takes about 15 minutes. It almost takes me longer to change into the hospital gown than it does to have the actual treatment. I'll have to learn to be quicker at changing. At least I don't have to worry about my hair getting messed up in the process. Once I am changed I am placed on the table, my body positioned, my tattoos lined up with the laser beam and then I receive radiation. The machine rotates into about 3 different positions to complete the treatment.

So many people have been concerned for me to start radiation. I get the constant questions, "How are you feeling, How are you managing the pain, Are you in pain?" Radiation doesn't hurt, it is more the uncomfortable feeling of lying on the table with my chest full of scars, completely exposed, having beams of radiation shot into my body. The first treatment I had tears rolling down my face because I was so scared. But I kept thinking about my 3 beautiful kids and my wonderful husband and how they are counting on me, how I need to be strong for them. I think more than anything it is an emotional pain of knowing radiation is entering my body and wondering what it really is doing. And of course anytime you are lying on a table and they tell you "Don't Move!" that is when you always have to sneeze or cough right?

With each treatment my skin will turn a little more pink, then turn a tan color and may eventually burn. So after each treatment I use 100% aloe vera. This will hopefully help my to not burn as badly. On my first appointment the therapist drew out the area that is being treated with a green marker. I was actually surprised at how broad the area really is. I am hoping that the burns won't be too intense because the radiation does go up onto my neck, around the side of my chest and up my arm. That could be painful. It also explains why people were looking at me strangely as I left the hospital. The therapist could have warned me that my neck was covered in green marker. I laughed when I got to my car and looked in the mirror. Good thing it wiped right off or I'd be wearing turtlenecks.

I am looking forward to having this next phase over with. I know that after radiation my family will have a well needed break since it has been recommended by my doctor to wait at least 6-8 months to start the reconstruction process. This will give us time to heal from the physical and emotional pain that cancer has brought to us these past 9 months. Time to be somewhat normal again and to not worry about cancer. I do realize how blessed I truly am. Tears fill my eyes each night as my 3 sweet children kneel and pray that mommy's cancer will be gone forever, that I will start to feel better again. It is so comforting when I am feeling sorry for myself to have my sweet husband wrap me in his arms and tell me it will be all right. I am lucky to have been given many priesthood blessings from Steve so that my body would be able to fight this cancer and to heal quickly. I am blessed to have SO many people that care about my well being.

I realize now that this journey has made me a stronger person. I never thought I could endure such a trial in my life. I think about the sacrifices that Christ made for us and realize my trial with cancer doesn't even compare to the pain and suffering he endured. And because of him these scars that are so apparent on my body now will someday be gone. That even with all the many tears and pain that I have encountered there is always someone that is going through something more challenging. I realize I have no reason to complain. This journey was a gift to me so that so many wonderful people could be brought into my life. I have been deeply and forever touched by these people.

Being a teacher I also get to touch so many lives each day. However, one of my students that I taught four years ago, and her family are an example of those that have deeply touched my life forever. They decided that because of the hardship my family has gone through these past few months they wanted to help us in some way. Without my knowledge, they came up with a plan to have a fundraiser for me. They created a flier with all the information and circulated it to all their neighbors, family, co-workers and friends.
All summer long that sweet family sold Tony's pizzas to earn money to donate to my family. In the end they sold around 225 pizzas. The tricky part was that all the pizzas had to be picked up at the pizza place the same time and then delivered on the same day to those who made a purchase. Seats had to be removed from their van, a shell had to be borrowed for a truck so that 220 pizzas could be loaded and then delivered. I can't image how long it must have taken to deliver all those pizzas. I still get a tear in my eye thinking of how they came to my house to give me their gift. I was handed 3 frozen pizzas and then told to make sure we liked the "toppings" they had picked. I was in shock and had tears rolling down my cheeks when I saw the pizza had been covered with 6 one hundred dollar bills. How this sweet family unselfishly gave time and love to help my family. How grateful I am for kind people in this world. I will never be able to repay all the wonderful things that have been done for me and my family. Yes I will continue to say it...I am blessed!

Love you all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It seems like just yesterday that I was up all night fretting over my surgery date to arrive. I can't believe a week has already passed and that I am home healing from a bilateral mastectomy. Several people have asked how it went so I will try to share the experience. I am horrible at taking pictures so I apologize that there are none to share.

My surgery was scheduled for August 5th at 10:30 am. We arrived at the hospital at 9:00 a.m. to have the pre-op stuff done. My nurse was very nice and we hit it off from the beginning since we had one thing in common...cancer. She is currently going through chemo treatments to fight lymphoma. It was nice to have someone take care of me that has the same understanding of the cancer world. I think it made her a little more sympathetic. She probably thought Steve was a little crazy because he started right from the beginning with the teasing. I think she was really convinced that he was my boyfriend and that my husband was a loser. I hope he set her straight before we left. Some people aren't sure how to handle him. But I must say, it is nice to have him to try and lighten the mood. We sure haven't had very many laughs lately.

She took us to the surgical waiting area and then started my IV. I still like her even though on the first try she had to dig around in my hand looking for the vein and then ended up "blowing the vein". She had to try again with a vein in my forearm. Luckily on the second try she was able to get it started. I have to say it was one of the most painful IVs I have had in my lifetime. It even made Steve get a little light headed just watching how much pain I was in, and Steve never gets queasy. He is the one who always takes care of the battle wounds at our home.

She then told us it wouldn't be long. We were the surgeon's third case for the day and he had been on schedule all morning. Well we ended up waiting 2 hours longer. The case before us had complications so it put the surgeon way behind. It is so hard to lay there waiting to go to surgery. I don't think my nerves could have waited any longer when finally it was my turn.

The surgery lasted for about 2 1/2 hours. I actually woke up in recovery pretty well. Luckily I didn't feel nauseated. Funny that I just remember looking at the clock on the wall and panicking that Seth had football practice in an hour and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get him there and that he would be late. The nurse then wheeled me to my room. In the hallway I saw my neighbor who is a nurse. I remember trying to get her attention but feeling so out of it. I'm not sure what I said to her but I know it was pretty slurry. I'm sure she sees it all the time when people are coming out of anesthesia, but still how embarrassing.

Once I got to my room my mom was waiting for me and I just slept. I don't remember much more of that day. Steve had to leave to get the kids and bring them back up to the hospital so they could see me. Then we planned for them to spend the night at grandma's house. I was very happy that Steve was able to stay with me at the hospital that night. I think however he slept better than I did. Hospitals are not a place to get rest.

I was able to be discharged the next day with directions from the doctor that going home and going to bed is NOT a good thing. He wanted me up and walking as soon as possible. I was a little nervous to go home with fear of the pain I was about to endure. Surprisingly, I was in very little pain. I was able to manage it with just Ibuprofen. My kids were shocked to see mom up and walking so soon after surgery.

The last week has consisted of just taking it easy and trying to not over do it because I do feel so well physically. Emotionally I have a harder road ahead. I have not had a day go by that I don't break down in tears 2-3 times. I know it is just an adjustment and that with time it will get better. I have a lot of people around me that support me so much. I know I won't have to do this alone.

We met with the surgeon on Wednesday and he was able to take out my drains...ouch!!. He also had a great pathology report for me. The report showed that there was residual cancer still in the breast, which I fully expected because the tumor was so big to begin with. And the plan was to only shrink the cancer with chemo. However, he was able to get negative margins(which means he was able to get ALL the cancer). He also took out more lymph nodes during surgery and they all tested negative as well. It was great news!! That means no more cancer in my body. Hooray!!

The plan now is next week physical therapy, radiation will start at the beginning of September. It will be everyday for 6 weeks. When radiation is finished we should have 6-8 months to just heal both physically and emotionally. It will be a nice break from chemo, surgery, radiation, and test after test. A break we all need in our family.

I feel very fortunate to have made it this far. I never thought I could do it. I'll be honest I have very little faith in my own strength. But somewhere I was able to reach into my own inner strength to get this far. I still have my very bad days, but overall I feel pretty good. And my hair is starting to grow back!! So things should only get better from now on.

Thank you for all your prayers! I know that because of your prayers I was able to come out on top!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Treatment is Finished!!!

I am finally to the point where I feel well enough to update this blog. It has been 11 days since my last treatment. And when I say last, I mean the last one! 8 in all. Hip, Hip Hooray! It is a great feeling to be finished with chemo.

Overall I am doing fine. I didn't realize how much chemo has really taken a toll on my body emotionally. The physical pain is always apparent but the emotional pains didn't seem to come to the surface until this last treatment. I think my body has finally said enough!! I have cried more this last treatment than any other time. I think it was a let down of the last 8 months of an emotional rollercoaster. My sweet kids, especially my little Maddie, have all learned to comfort their mommy and wipe her tears. They love to curl up next to me and just cuddle. I realize now just how much this has probably affected them as well. They have a lot to celebrate also. They may finally get their mom back.

As far as the actual treatment I wonder if they didn't give me a double dose of Taxotere because my physical symptoms were the worst ever. I have neuropathy in my hands and feet. The tingles are constant and my fingers feel like they have been smashed. I have a hard time holding onto things especially with my right hand. My fingernails feel like they are falling off. I hear this eventually goes away. I pray that is the case. My body aches were again severe. I had to resort to taking Lortab along with Ibuprofen 800. I was even a little nauseated this time as well. Thank goodness for pain meds. And for those of you that have seen me while taking them, please don't hold me accountable for anything I may have said. I even caught myself slurring my words at one point. Scary! There were several days this time that I physically could not get out of bed. And then with the neuropathy in my feet, it was a little tricky to walk. My eyes constantly water (not from all the crying). Most likely the chemo has done something to my tear ducts. I shouldn't even put make up on anymore because I just end up wiping it off. I have sores all over in my mouth and all over my tongue. Food just doesn't taste the same. I have acid reflux like crazy. But even with all of these yucky symptoms they eventually go away and then I feel fine.

My surgery plans have changed. We will no longer be traveling to New Orleans for the surgery, for now. I think this has also played a part in the overwhelming emotion of sadness. I was really looking forward to having an immediate reconstruction. The change of plans was mostly due to the fact that my insurance company wanted me to pay $20,000 out of pocket, plus my out of network deductibles of $4000.00, plus the cost to travel and stay in New Orleans for 10 days. I am still working on them to see it my way, but it takes time to appeal. Time that I don't have since my oncologist gave me 3-4 weeks from my last treatment to get this cancer out of my body. If we wait too long to do surgery the cancer will start growing back. So for now a double mastectomy along with the axillary node dissection is scheduled for next week, August 5th. Dr. Alder at McKay Dee will be doing the surgery. He is the same surgeon that did my sentinel node dissection and put in my port-a-cath. There is a comfort in having someone I am already familiar with do my surgery. Radiation will follow 4-5 weeks after surgery. I will have radiation everyday M-F for 6 weeks (30 sessions). After radiation we actually may have some time to just heal, both physically and emotionally. Reconstruction will most likely have to wait 6-12 months following radiation. So maybe by next summer we can try to finish up this so called cancer trip we have been on.

Thank you again to all of you that send cards, emails, messages on FB, phone calls etc.... And also to those that have brought wonderful meals to my family. The hardest part of this battle is to make sure my kids are still being taken care of. There have been chemo days that I know my kids have lived on PB&J, not that they are complaining. I am so lucky to have a wonderful cheering section. So many of you wonder how to help. Just your kind words and love and support make a huge difference. To look beyond the bald head, the pale face with no eyelashes or eyebrows and still love me. To know that I truly love each one of you. I am so thankful that I have Steve to be my sounding board. He has endured a lot. He is my rock, he is where I pull my strength from. I admire and love him for that. I don't know what I would do without him. I am so blessed!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

7 treatments down, 1 more to go

Monday I had my 7th chemo treatment, the 3rd of Taxotere. It was actually quite uneventful. I guess that is a good thing. The doctor was detained at the hospital when I arrived so they took my vitals and sent me straight back to the chemo room. Usually I meet with the doctor first to talk about any problems that may have occurred. I guess several people had been sent straight back as well because the chemo room was very full. And because I had already taken 2 Benadryl before I left my house, I ended up napping in the recliner for an hour before my treatment was actually started. The nurses were definitely hopping that day. The doctor did end up visiting with me for a few minutes in the chemo room, but I didn't have much to report. Again I guess that is a good thing. So far this treatment has been about the same as the others. My symptoms are severe body aches, mostly my legs, fatigue, hot flashes, and a little nausea. The pain meds don't seem to help very much. I am just trying to be brave. I am looking forward to finishing chemo treatments. July 19th will be the last treatment. YAY! So far my surgery date has not been finalized. It will most likely be August 10, 11, or 12th in New Orleans. We are trying to coordinate 2 surgeon's schedules so it takes a little time. In all everything is going well. My hair has even started to grow back a little. Thanks again for all the love and support. We love you all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

38th birthday and 20 year high school reunion

Friday, June 25th was my 38th birthday. I will be honest I wasn't looking forward to having a birthday. As I get older birthdays are a reminder of...well getting older, but this year my birthday was different. It was more about celebrating my life. Celebrating how far I have come in my treatments, about celebrating all the challenges and trial I have overcome. Celebrating my wonderful husband and my 3 beautiful children. Celebrating all my blessings around me. Celebrating me!
I have learned that in the cancer world birthdays are seen so differently. Birthdays are a reminder that we are still here, that cancer didn't take birthdays away from us. They are a celebration of being a survivor, a celebration of life, a celebration of triumphs, a celebration of blessings. These are things I have always taken for granted.
On many occasions I have sat in the chemo room visiting with the patient next to me and they all say the same thing, "I'm just so glad to still be here." So now as I have birthdays, I do plan on having many more, I can honestly say "YAY it's my birthday. I'm so glad to be here."

On Friday and Saturday it was also my 20 year High School reunion from Weber High. I will be honest again, I did NOT want to go. Of all the years to have my reunion it had to be the year I am bald, and thanks to chemo, steroids and not being able to be active I am far from my ideal weight. I have no eyelashes, no eyebrows, very pale skin since I am forbidden to be in the sun...oh I could go on and on. This is definitely not how I wanted to see people after 20 years. I guess I am vain because I have had a really hard time with my image these past few months. But as I stated before I am learning to celebrate what I do have. To celebrate the little bit of hair that has grown back, to celebrate when the pain goes away after each treatment, that I have 2 arms and legs that work, that I am still somewhat healthy, that I have a beautiful family, a wonderful husband who loves me no matter what, that these little things that I am so vain about will all grow back. So yes even though it has been very difficult, I am happy for what I have. Needless to say, I decided to go on Friday night, on my birthday, to the alumni only social. They also had a dinner on Saturday night, but emotionally that would have been pushing it so I did no go to the dinner. But I hear it was a lot of fun.

It was very fun to see everyone and to catch up on the past 20 years. And I will admit I had a fun time. It was kind of comical how many people that I grew up with, or that I was very close to in high school, just walked right past me because they didn't recognize who I was. I'm sure there were many others that I didn't even talk to because of that same reason. I could see the shock on their face when they looked at my name tag and saw who I was. It amazed me that I really do look that different. How easy an image can change in just a few months, or in 20 years. In the end I was tired of telling my cancer story. And I was tired of hearing, "Wow you are so brave to be here, I couldn't have done it." But if anything good came from my reunion, it was that I had my own personal triumph. That I did something that was very difficult for me to do. And I kept telling myself it just doesn't matter what people think! Because the people that really matter in this world love me for who I am, not what I look like!

Aren't my friends cute! Most of us in this picture have known each other since 7th grade and we still keep in touch. They even brought me yummy dinners during chemo treatments, bought me a cute scarf, lotion, mints to suck on during chemo, and an i-pod to listen to during chemo. They have been so supportive. Thanks you guys! You're the best!

Friday, June 11, 2010

6th Treatment

I had my 6th chemo treatment on Monday, the second round of Taxotere. Only 2 more to go. This treatment seemed to go a little better than the first because this time they gave me the Benedryl differently so I didn't have involuntary muscle spasms in my legs. The doctor also put me on a steroid to help with the skin burns I had last time. And as of today, no burns! But the worst part is because of the steroid I want to eat all the time, and I feel like doing nothing. So I am sure I will probably pack on the pounds. Taxotere along with my immunization shot makes my whole body ache from head to toe. It is 10 times worse than the aches from the flu. I take pain meds for the achiness, but it doesn't seem to help. Mostly I just rest all day because it hurts to do anything else. But thank goodness it is summer and I can rest.

My kids have been wonderful to help. They are at my beck and call getting me anything I need. We have also been blessed with so many people helping our family with meals, rides to lessons, cards, phone calls, etc... Thank you so much for all the support that has been given to us. It makes it so much easier to focus on getting better.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Steve and I met with an amazing Dr. at the end of May to discuss my surgery options. Her name is Dr. Marga Massey. She met with us on a Saturday and spent an entire 2 hours just talking with us. I was getting nervous that she may need to hurry so she could see other patients. But she took her time with us. She was so kind and personal. She was previously located at the U of U hospital but has since moved her practice to 3 different cities. She is now in Chicago, Charleston or New Orleans. Dr. Massey flies back to Utah 4 times a year to still see her "Utah girls", and to do second stage surgeries. She was highly recommended by a couple of my friends that had her do their surgeries as well. I was totally impressed.

She explained the different options of breast reconstruction. First being a tram flap which sounds great because it gives you a tummy tuck at the same time. But they take all the abdomen muscle as well and push it to the top to make the breasts. Even just sitting up from the couch would be difficult, so that I don't want. Next being implants. A lot of women choose implants because they look nice and the recovery is pretty quick. But because I have to have radiation, the implants have a 100% failure rate over 5 years with radiation patients. So not wanting to have surgery every 5 years I went to Dr. Massey for another option.

Dr. Massey is different from most of the plastic surgeons here in Utah in that she is a micro surgeon. She takes tissue and/or fat from either the abdomen or the gluteus area and transplants it to reconstruct the breasts. She uses a microscope during surgery to reconnect blood vessels so the tissue has a blood supply. There is no muscle involved. And yes it also gives you a tummy or butt tuck. The surgery is 8-10 hours long and the recovery is a little more difficult since there are 2 areas to heal, the transplant site and the donor site. This would be stage 1 surgery. We will have to fly to one of her cities that she practices in, most likely New Orleans, to have the surgery done. We will be gone a total of 10 days. And then recovery is 6 weeks. I think the trickiest part will be flying home for 4 hours after surgery. Yikes! I hope the pain meds are good.

There are more surgeries that follow stage 1...stage 2 and stage 3. These are more of the cosmetic or cleanup surgeries where they go in and smooth out the areas and make things look more "normal". These phases would be done here in Utah at Alta hospital. But with each surgery and recovery time, the total reconstruction process could take up to a year to be completely finished. Ugh! Something to look forward to for next summer.

My last chemo treatment will be on July 19th, and my oncologist does not want to wait very long between chemo and surgery since cancer can start growing back. Therefore, we are working on a date of August 11th or 12th to have my bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. This also means never really going through a mastectomy. When I wake up, the reconstruction will already be done...well at least in the first stage. I think the psychological factor with a bilateral mastectomy is really difficult as well for women. So again I am grateful for this option I have. And it is one less surgery to heal from.

I feel very good about the decision I've made and anxiously await August to arrive. The hardest part is that I will be having surgery right before school starts. I will miss the first 6 weeks of school. I have no idea how to prepare a substitute for the first days of school. But right now I just need to focus on getting better. I keep telling myself, "it will be ok, take deep breaths." I feel like we are finally getting closer to being on the road to recovery. Yay!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stoneybrook Retirement Yard Sale

On May 14th the residents at Stoneybrook Retirement Center in Riverdale held a yard sale in behalf of my family. One of my previous students, her grandma's sister is the director. When she heard our story of my husband losing his job and me being diagnosed with cancer, they decided to make it a service project. I was so touched when they called me this week asking me to come see them so they could present me with the funds they raised.

There were about 8 residents waiting when I got there. They are very elderly and most are in wheelchairs. The director said they worked on the yard sale for weeks, pricing and organizing. One man in particular took most of the tasks on himself. He told me he was a little worried that they wouldn't be successful that day, but in his words they were "really busy". The director also told me it was so good for them because it gave them something to work for that had meaning. I was so touched. For most of the day they sat out in the parking lot selling items that had been donated. Most items were priced at 25 cents. They even sold baked goods and cotton candy. Some stayed outside the entire day selling things.

You can imagine my surprise when they handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a card signed by all the residents and a jar filled with $453.00 that they had raised. My eyes filled with tears. To see these people who have so many limits themselves, raising money in behalf of my family. I was speechless. I had so much love in my heart for them. It makes me feel so good to know what kind people there are in the world. To show so much love for my family that they have never even met. I just hope that my children can see the examples of all these kind people and that someday we can return the favor to someone in need.

5th Chemo treatment

I feel badly it has been so long since I updated my blog. I didn't realize how many people have actually been reading it. Several people have made comments about it not being updated in a here is the update.

I had my 5th chemo treatment on Monday, May 16th. I moved my treatment to Monday instead of Thursday because my brother got married on Saturday, May 22nd and I was afraid I wouldn't be feeling well in time for the wedding. It was the first of my 4 Taxotere treatments. I feel like it was another hurdle to cross in being finished.

At the beginning of the treatment they gave me Benadryl in case I had a reaction to the drug. I think I might of had a reaction to the Benadryl because instead of being tired I felt like getting up and running around the room. My legs were having involuntary muscle spasms. The nurse assured me it would go away, but I think it was the longest 1 1/2 hours of my life. Needless to say, I didn't like having this treatment.

Weeks before the doctor had told me that this treatment was more mild and that other patients had done "better." In fact I was looking forward to getting this treatment hoping it would actually be a week off of relaxation and not being sick. I guess I was wrong. The first and second day I felt pretty good. I wasn't nauseated at all. In fact I drove myself back to the doctor's office the next day to get my shot. Maddie and I even went to lunch. But the rest of the week I was in extreme pain. My whole body ached. All my joints and muscles were throbbing. I could barely get out of bed or even walk. My doctor recommended taking Loritab and Ibuprofen 800 together. I guess I am not prone to being addicted to drugs because I don't like the way they made me feel. They make me very sick to my stomach. I tried to make it on just the Ibuprofen but it was very difficult. Yes it was a long week. Friday I tried to go back to school, but they ended up calling in a sub after about an hour because I was still in so much pain.

The following Sunday morning I woke up and both sides of my neck, from my ears down to my shoulder, were burned. It looked like I dropped my curling iron on my neck. My arms have itchy rashes all over them and now I have burns on my face. I called the doctor's office and they said it is from the Taxotere and to take Benadryl. Oh joy...not Benadryl again. I did however try it and I was up all night. So I guess I will just let it take its course. I'm sure it will go away just in time for treatment #6.

It has taken me about 2 weeks to get feeling better and now my next treatment is just around the corner. But hey 5 down...3 to go. YAY!!

May is a month of Ethan

Looking back at the month of May, I realize now how much was focused on our dear sweet Ethan. To begin we were so proud of him at how well he did at his piano recital. He loves taking lessons and rarely complains when I ask him to practice. In fact it was his idea to even start taking piano 3 years ago. when he asked if he could start taking lessons we didn't even own a piano. He practiced on a keyboard for the first year so we could see if he was going to take it serious enough to purchase a piano. 3 years later he is still loving it.

We were again proud of Ethan this month when he received his Webelos and his Arrow of light in the scouting program. He earned 19 out of 20 activity badges, which shows how much he really enjoys it. I can't believe he will be in the Boy Scouts now. When the boys receive their arrow of light they cross a bridge showing their advancement into the Boy Scouts. Then they get to sign their name on the bridge. It was a special day for Ethan. They also presented him with a shadow box that holds all of his badges he has earned as a boy scout.

Ethan also had his 11th birthday. I can't believe how fast he is growing up. He was just dying to get an air soft gun so he can battle with the neighbor kids.

This is Ethan and his friend Kaden posing as Wilbur and Orville Wright for school. The 5th grade had the kids dress up like someone in American History. Then they posed like wax figures as we walked through their "wax museum." I was amazed how well the kids did at holding still acting like they were wax figures.

We are very proud of Ethan and all his accomplishments. He is such a joy to have in our lives. He definitely keeps us laughing.

Friday, April 30, 2010

4th Chemo treatment

I can't believe it has been 3 weeks already since my last treatment. On my 3rd treatment my doctor was out of town so I met with the nurse practitioner who is only at that office on Fridays. This also meant I couldn't get treatment until Friday which put my booster shot on Monday. My shot is what boosts my immune system back up. I think having to wait so long was not good because I caught a cold. Normally I would have been able to fight a common cold with no problem, but with no immune system this cold "kicked my butt!" It put me down for weeks. But I am feeling much better now. Just in time for another treatment.

Yesterday I had my 4th chemo treatment. YAY! I am half way finished. The most exciting part is that I am done with the drug called Citoxin, or AKA "The Red Devil", and also the drug Adromyican. For the final 4 rounds I will only have 1 drug call Taxotere. The doctor says that with the final drug the symptoms are not as bad. I am very happy. Maybe the nausea and body aches won't be so bad. I think this calls for a celebration. I can finally see the end in sight, well sort of. The end of chemo that is. The nurse said my hair might even start growing back as well. Yippee....but I must say it has been nice not having to do my hair in the morning. I get to sleep in a little longer. :)

In talking with the doctor this last visit I asked him when my surgery would most likely be. He said that my mastectomy will most likely be 3-4 weeks after my last chemo treatment. Which puts it around the latter part of August. I wasn't so happy with that news because it conflicts with the beginning days of school. Steve thinks I am crazy to worry about it, but he doesn't understand the excitement those precious little first graders have on the first day of school. And how disappointing it would be to them to not have their teacher there. I know I should not worry, but maybe with some luck we can avoid that week.
I am meeting with a plastic surgeon on the 11th of May and a microsurgeron on the 29th of May to see what my options are for reconstruction. I think reconstruction is many months away. Radiation will follow the surgery and I've heard that the beginning of reconstruction doesn't take place for at least six months following that. I know this is a long road to be on, but at least one hurdle, chemotherapy, is almost crossed. YAY!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

As I stood in the back of the gymnasium just minutes before the dinner was to begin, my body was filled with such overwhelming emotions. I began looking at all the tables that had been set up to hold all the people that were coming in my behalf. I was looking at all the baskets that were beautifully wrapped and decorated to entice the silent bidders. I was looking at all the items donated to be sold during the auction. I was overwhelmed with such peace and love in my heart.

Last Friday night April 23rd, the school that I teach at, West Haven Elementary hosted a spaghetti dinner/auction in behalf of my family. It was amazing! I am still touched with the amount of love and support that was shown to me and my family that night.

My good friend Mindy (a parent of a former student) was actually the one who came up with the idea. Then she recruited my principal and secretaries who also helped tremendously. Even several of the teachers, aides, cooks, janitors donated items, money or their time to make it such a huge success.

Mindy decided they should pre-sell tickets so they could account for the amount of food to cook. It ended up selling out at 530 and they had to turn people away. I was shocked. I never imagined that so many people would come to support me. I am still speechless. There were so many people that attended. Current students with their family, former students and their family, friends, past co-workers, friend of my family, past neighbors, even some that I didn't know.

So many people helped in so many ways. The cooks stayed and made the dinner which I was so relieved about because I can not imagine how to cook for 500 people. Mindy and others were able to get the entire food bill donated from Kroger, Associated foods and Kent's Market. So all the proceeds went to my family. I had several moms from my class going out to local businesses and getting donations for baskets.

I still can't believe the amount of generosity from the community. In the end we had around 150 baskets and items for the silent auction. Around 30 big items for the live auction, including a billboard space on I-15 worth $4600, a hand made cradle, a beautiful craft table, several overnight get-aways, and a basketball and mini backboard signed from the entire Utah Jazz team. We also did a raffle with several donated items. It was incredible and also a lot of fun. Yes I am very blessed. And it was a huge success.

Mindy was also able to order shirts for everyone that helped at the dinner. They were white with the breast cancer ribbon that said "Awareness". It was neat to see everyone wearing their shirts that night in honor of fighting breast cancer.

A sixth grader at my school had to do a power point assignment on someone in their family or community that they consider a hero. She chose me. I was so touched. So during the dinner they showed her slide show. I don't think there was a dry eye there, especially not mine. The best part was she held up signs and took pictures of them that said, "Fight Like A Girl". This is my new motto. Thanks Kayle.

I was also presented with a check from the 2 yards sales that my friend Corrie held for my family. The 2 yards sales alone made $4000.00. Again I was shocked. I couldn't believe that with just 2 yard sales that so much money could be raised. Her husband also drew the a beautiful picture of my family. They had it framed and also presented it to us that night. Thanks Corrie and her family for all the many countless hours of time spent in behalf of my family.

It was so nice to be surrounded by my family. I am so lucky to have their support as well. We wish Steve's family could have been there to spend this wonderful evening with us however, they all live in California.

I can't tell you how grateful I am now knowing that I can just focus on getting better and not having to worry about how to pay for all the many doctors bills that just keep coming. One treatment alone is around $4700.00 and I have only done 3 out of 8. And there are many surgeries yet to come. Again with so many people being so generous I know that I can conquer this battle of breast cancer. "I'll take on this world, If I stand and be strong, No I'll never give up, I will conquer with love, And I'll fight like a girl." (Some of the Lyrics to the song Fight Like a girl by Bomshell). Thank you again to everyone who has touched our lives in so many ways. We are blessed that you are part of our lives.

Here is a list of the the individuals and businesses that donated for the dinner/auction
The auction would not have been what it was without the help of each one on this list. There were donations coming in right before the dinner so I'm sure I've missed some names and I apologize.

America First Credit Union
Amy Hird
Angi Prevedel
Angie Crosby
Anita Gillette
Ann Holdaway
Barbara Hicks
Bella Blu Photography
Bill Carruth
Boccia's D'Italaia
Brian Brown
Brian Hadley - Macy's Foods
Burrito Grande
CCI Mechanical Giving Team
Cherry Hill Water Park
Classic Roller Skating
Cody Toone - Logo Lady
Comedy Improv
Corrie Martinez
Country Garden Nursery
Crazy Karen Handbags
Dani Franks
Deb Nabor
Debbie Smith
Desert Book-Andrea Barker
Donna Bolton - Mary Kay Cosmetics
Early Intervention Preschool Staff
Gardner Village
Gerald Thomason
Get Away Today
Grandma's Country Kitchen
Great Harvest
Hunt Mystery Theater
Jake Burnett
Jamie Peterson
Jan Stevenson
Jen Kapps Photography
Jenn Calcutt
Jeremy Carrell
Jessica Parsons
Jim Martinez
Jon Fawson - Kent's Market
Karyn Bernier
Kasey Ivins
Katie Smith
Kaylynn South
Kelly Stone
Ken Hargis
Kevin - SFE Corp.
Kim Buchanan
Kimberly Maughn
Kurt Flinders
Lady Fitness
Larry and Michelle Hansen
Layne Tilby
Lee Allen
Lett'er Express It
Lifetime Products Donation Committee
Lilli Hatch
Lori Allred - Imaginisce Scrapbooking
Maggie Roberts
Marcus Gilbert-Charley's
Marty Lee
Martzi Spencer
Massage Envy
Mechelle Tafoya
Micha Larsen - Hurco Design and Manufacturing
Michaelle Coombs
Midnight Moon Soap Shoppe
Mike Price - Scentsy
Mindi Gifford
Mt. Ogden Café
Nancy Manigault
Nancy VanZweeden
NC Designs
Nick Lopez - Dark Productions
Nicole Montoya - Kroger Foods
Off the Wall Improv
Poison Ivy Mysteries
Prevedel Saddlery
Rachel White
Riverside Golf
Roy Aquatics Center
Roy Complex
Russ Gardner - Mountain Inn
Ryan and Maria Johnson
Saunders Outdoor Advertising Inc
Scholastic Books
Shawn and Amy Iverson
Smith and Edwards
Snowberry Inn
Sonora Grill
Steve Rich - Associated Foods
Tanning Oasis
TB Country Stichin
Terrace Plaza Playhouse
Tim Mair
Valley View Elementary
Valley View Elementary PTA
Victoria Dastrup
Weber School District Math Coaches
Weber State University Bookstore and Athletics
West Haven Elementary Resource Department
Wylde Hare Farms
ZinneyLou Totes

Thank you to everyone who donated your time to make the dinner/auction such an amazing event! I hope I haven't left anyone off the list. If I did, I apologize. It certainly wasn't intentional.

Amy Hird
Ann and Dave Holdaway
Barbara Mikolash
Becky Montgomery
Bill Carruth
Carolyn Rusch
Cathay Christiansen
Chris Bachman
Corrie Martinez and Family
Craig and Karen Neiswender
Dave Stallings
Deanne and Layne Tilby
Deb and Steve Nabor
Deb Smith
Fran Robinson
Gerald Thomason
Heather Jorgensen
Jamie Peterson
Jan Stevenson
Jana Poulsen
Jennifer Bair
Jennifer Votava
JoLyn Hathaway
Karen Binette
Karla Edsinger
Kasey Ivins
Katherine Toone
Kaylyn South
Kimberly Maughan
Lee Claycomb
Leslie Saunders
Lilli Hatch
Liz Dickey
Lynette Dunkley
Lynette Grow
Maggie and Clark Roberts
Margaret Handen
Marilee Clarke
Maurine Newton
Michaelle Coombs
Nicki Slaugh
Pam Kennrick
Sabrina Smith
Schuyler Taylor
Sharon Thomason
Shon Avis
Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie Vlaanderen
Teresa Decker
Thelma Reeve
Tiffany Erickson
VanZweden Family