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

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

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!