Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December 29, 2014 - "Ditching the Apron" Two Week Post-Op Visit With Surgeon.

Our day started with genetic counseling at 8:00 am and then we crossed the street to Dr. Turk's office for my two week surgical follow-up. I love how the schedulers work together for the convenience of the patient! I had 8:00 and 9:10 back to back appointments which makes being a patient so much easier! I am waiting for the red carpet to come rolling out for me at anytime now! lol. I eagerly sign in hoping that I will be leaving today minus two "evil" drains, the remainder of the staples from my chest and that tacky apron that is such an eyesore hanging out from under my clothes! lol. One of my favorite nurses, Vicki, calls me back within five minutes of arriving. This is my third visit and for the third time, we walk right past the scales without stopping to weigh! I love this office more and more! lol. Dr. Turk comes in and is still very pleased with my progress and okays removal of drains and staples - YES! I am now 2 1/2 weeks out from surgery so he gives me the thumbs up to go back to Dr. Mitchell and get started with my chemotherapy. He says he wants to see me again in two weeks and I guess at that point the surgical leg of my journey will be ending. Maybe I will keep the apron and it can be my "first" journey souvenir! Yes - I believe I will!

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 29, 2014 - Genetic Counseling Today!

We arrived for our 8:00 am appointment at Presbyterian Hospital to meet with a genetics counselor. I was looking forward to this appointment and really excited to have my questions answered and to become more knowledgeable of the role of genetics with cancer. I qualified for testing because of my triple negative status, my Jewish ancestry and having an oncologist who leaves no stone unturned - a big shout out to Dr. Mitchell!

We only waited for a couple of minutes before "Kristin" came around the corner wearing a very big smile! We "meshed" immediately! She was very informative and eager to teach and willing to share her wealth of knowledge! It was obvious to me that she "eats, lives and breathes" genetics/cancer! We finished up our session with a "Cancernext" panel being drawn and sent to the lab. "Cancernext" is a next generation sequencing panel that analyzes 28 genes associated with increased risk for breast, ovarian, uterine, colon and other cancers. BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are also included in this panel. BRCA results are so important to know especially since we have 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters. It was an hour so well spent discussing and learning about genetics and cancer and realizing the more we know about cancer, the more  we may be able to control events. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Friday, December 26, 2014

December 26, 2014 - Christmas on the Couch!

I am now two weeks out from surgery and continuing with lots of rest. My incision continues to heal nicely and is feeling a little better each day. I am still having to sleep on my back on a mountain of pillows with both arms in a "winged" position and I just "thought" I could only sleep on my left side! lol. 
In spite of surgery and a cancer diagnosis, Christmas still brought the same warm feelings that we all had as children. I think our hearts grow tender with childhood memories at Christmastime and may even make us a better person throughout the year. Christmas really does have a way of waving a magic wand over the world! Christmas is a time when some long to be a child again. The time as a child when all Christmas trees were 30 feet tall when looking up at them! The two best days of the year as a child were Christmas morning and the last day of school! As an adult, no matter how carefully you stored the Christmas lights last year, you still fight the tangled mess and half of them no longer work! lol. But we always manage to keep the appointment with Christmas! The picture above was created and painted by a very special eight year old girl named Ava, our youngest grandchild! It was such a great gift this Christmas! Gifts of "time" and "love" are the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas! You know that glorious mess on the living room floor on Christmas morning - don't be too quick to clean it up!
The picture below shows our mantle that our special little Claire created and decorated all by herself. She spelled out the word "Christmas" using ornaments. If you notice between the letter I and the letter S, she hung an ornament that says "He Lives" which she made a few years ago in church. This in itself is the true meaning of Christmas - because HE LIVES - we live! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22, 2014 - Pink Ribbon Shopping!

I have done 100% of my Christmas shopping this year online while being on house arrest! lol. The "Breast Cancer Site" online store has lots of gifts and ideas for all ages! Ava and Claire's jewelry Christmas gifts came today and I am very pleased and I am sure they will be be too! The best part is that all purchases helps to fund mammograms, research and care! It is truly shopping with a purpose and they definitely have me as a new customer!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 20, 2014 - The "Cheer Team" is Growing!

What a wonderful surprise when Chelsey ordered personalized tee shirts for Ava and Claire and a pink breast cancer kerchief for our newest team member - "Mascot BooBoo" - our loving and loyal Golden! Good job Chelsey!

Friday, December 19, 2014

December 11, 2014 - Out of recovery and in room (late entry).

This is a late entry to my blog. I had posted this to FaceBook earlier.  I had just gotten to my room following surgery and recovery. I was giving a quick "thumbs up" to all of the prayers, support and kind thoughts from so many wonderful people and promising to blog more when I was not so "narced" up! Lol.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 18, 2014 - One Week Post-Op Visit With Surgeon.

It has now been one week since my surgery and I am scheduled to see my surgeon today. This is the first day that I have put on street clothes since surgery. Of course I am trying to find something to wear that will hide my paraphernalia - haha good luck with this one I am thinking! My daughter, Candy, had given me a double breasted sweater with pockets when I was first diagnosed that proved to be my golden ticket today! Perfect fit and the tubing and drains stored away nicely right into my pockets! It unbuttons at the shoulder so it will also be great to wear for my chemo treatments! It is 5% cashmere so it feels as great as it looks! Good job Candy! 
This is Dr. Peter Turk, my surgeon. He is extremely skillful as a surgeon and was highly recommended to me by so many people. He has strong interpersonal skills and interacts in a very calm and confident manner. He listens and patiently answers questions and truly shows concern and care for me as a patient which is so needed when facing any illness. He was very pleased with my progress and removed every other staple across my chest and removed the two inner drains leaving me with only the two outer drains! So my pockets are only half full now! lol.  My pathology report will be finalized later today and he said he would call me later at home with the results. Another reason I am so satisfied with his care - his follow-up and he doesn't make me wait until the next office visit to get results. "Waiting" can be brutal when it comes to cancer and he and Dr. Mitchell both know this and do their best to shorten/eliminate the "waiting game" for their patients. I leave with my written appointment for December 29 in hand. I get his call later that afternoon to give me GREAT news! All lymph nodes are negative for cancer and the only sign of cancer was the small (less than 2 cm) tumor with very wide cancer free margins! All breast tissue from both breasts was examined and no other disease was found! According to the findings of the report, there is no spread of cancer! I am at the halfway mark of my second leg of this journey and am beginning to feel like I am writing a gratitude journal. God is Great and All is Good!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 17, 2014 - Sharing a Funny!

When Claire is not busy cheerleading for me, she is helping me in so many ways. I don't believe this would qualify as helping me! lol. On second thought, I did get a big belly laugh! If you notice in the picture, she had removed my mouthpiece before "playing" with it! lol-and after all "play" is our brains favorite way to learn! Kids will be kids!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014 - Third Day Post-Op

It's all about the drains, about the drains, about the drains! lol. I am discovering that mandatory tasks are so much easier with humor. It's now my third day post-op. I woke up at 8am which is very late for me but then again I am being very compliant with doctor orders! lol. I get up wash hands, gather supplies and get busy with my four JP drains - clean and strip the drains, empty, measure and record output and clean reservoir tip and line tip before reconnecting. All four drains are cleaned, stripped, measured and recorded four times daily. It is a necessary and understandable task but nonetheless I call it evil! lol.
The highlight of my day is taking a shower. I started showering yesterday and it was the best shower of my life!  I attach my drains to a neck lanyard and enjoy the warm water as it flows over my battle scars and NO I will not be posting a "how to shower" picture. lol. I also use this time to inspect my incision line, the staples and suturing around the drain lines. It all looks clean without signs of infection. I am continuing to rest a lot - who am I fooling - I am having a real love affair with my bed! My bed has never felt so good! I have found the best way to carry my drains around is in an apron. Mine just happens to be a Home Depot handy dandy tool belt - hey it was free! lol. This is me as usual these days - resting!

It's been another great day without complications. The day ended at our daughter (Candy's) house with  barbecue cooked on the Green Egg - delicious and healthy! I received several unexpected gifts today including a double breasted sweater, two shoulder shirts ( all three have easy access to chemo port). I will definitely be "styling" at my chemotherapy sessions! lol. I also received my first chemo blanket with matching cozy socks, candy and homemade cookies and cakes. I am truly the most thankful person on the planet right now! God is Great and All is Good! If this keeps up, I may never need an antidepressant drug! lol.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December 11, 2014 - Day of Surgery

Nothing spells "sincerity" quite like a child's misspelled word on a get well card! Thank you to my sweet little Ava! I love the pink ribbon too - good job!
I see today as the start of leg #2 of my journey. We arrived at the hospital and signed in and I was soon called back to prepare for my double mastectomy with chemo port placement. My pre-op nurse was very gentle and soft spoken. She triple checked everything which made me feel even safer. An anesthesiologist came in to tell me about his wife. He said her breast cancer diagnosis, tumor size, clinical stage and surgeon were all identical to mine and she did fantastic and he then said "so will you!" He pushed my comfort level to an all time high! I saw him as my angel that morning. They then let Ricky come back to see me for a few minutes and then our minister came back. After a few minutes, the nurse notified us that the OR team was ready for me. I remember thinking "Great! all systems working and it's GO time!" They say all good surgery starts with a prayer so at that point David had us hold hands for prayer and as he was praying, the Versed hit causing me to fall quickly to sleep. What a wonderful way to be sent to the OR and my last remembrance before waking up in recovery three hours later! Talk about being sent somewhere on a wing and a prayer! lol.
I am now 48 hours out from surgery and doing well. My toughest time was the first night post-op. It was a painful and long night but I began turning the corner that morning and was discharged home at lunch time. I am happy to report I slept well last night only waking up once for a potty break!
My discharge instructions from Dr. Turk were to go home and do nothing but rest (no housework or cooking - always a bright side to everything)! I certainly plan to follow his orders and be a lady of leisure for however long it takes!!! Let me get back to resting! lol.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 10, 2014 - Twas the night before surgery....

All my bags are packed - no I am not leaving on a jet plane. lol.  Packing for this journey took less than two minutes. My packing list was simple - robe and slippers, toothbrush, face cream and of course my electronic toys! I am to be at the hospital at 5 AM for breast surgery with chemotherapy port placement. Being the morning person I am, I was delighted to get an early time slot. Although the last time I was at the hospital at 5 AM, I was on call and working and being paid - lol. The surgery should take two hours with one overnight stay. The actual surgery is to start at 7:30 AM. Please continue to PRAY for me. It's all good and even the bag agrees with me - LIFE IS GOOD!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Journey Before The Journey - Always Good Medicine!

We are here at James Island near Charleston (see the bridge in the picture) for the 25th anniversary of the "Festival of Lights." It is a spectacular display of over two million Christmas lights stretching over three miles! We were here last year and knew we would be coming back! We are in the motorhome and are staying inside the James Island County park so we are footsteps from the entire display. It's kind of like being at Disney and staying in Cinderella's castle! lol.The lights turn on at 5:30 each day and the whole forest comes alive with magic! Not being able to wait until 5:30, we tore off over there as soon as we arrived!

We immediately pass by a motorhome with "courage lives here" on the window. WOW - that was for me! It gets better - keep reading!
We stopped along the way to admire the local kids' artwork. I see this "Faith like a child - Jesus" and do a double take! WOW again - another sign for me! We decided to get away for a few days before surgery on Thursday morning but I guess "the journey" followed us. Wait a minute, I am the journey.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014 - Humbling moment on a Sunday morning.

Our sweet sweet neighbors surprised me this morning with a gift bag of all the things I love - how did they know I was such a puzzle and card nerd? lol. I will certainly put all of this to good use! If you look closely, there is the "Angel of Courage" in the center and cards signed by their two children! A great big THANK YOU to Abby, Lawson, Laurie and Scott Houser! She reminded me of her love, support and prayers before leaving. I am so humbled.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December 6, 2014 - Just a bit of rainy day education.

This is just a reminder to please be compliant with yearly mammograms and monthly self breast exams. I had just had a screening mammogram, a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound in February of this year and was given the all clear. It was during my monthly exam that I discovered the small lump and immediately called my primary who immediately scheduled a diagnostic mammogram. There were no questions asked and I did not have to go in for an office visit. There are many advantages in being compliant with yearly visits with your physician. I am saying all of this to stress the importance of being diligent with your breast health. Be your own advocate. It may one day save your life through early detection. Peace out!

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 2, 2014 - Surgeon visit.

My surgeon appointment was not until the afternoon and I just wanted something "cheerful" to do this morning, so I turned to Disney and watched "Saving Mr. Banks"! The "Go fly a kite" number would make the crankiest person happy, including P.L. Travers! Lol. You can always count on Disney! It's a good movie and was a great distraction.
We had lunch and made our way to the surgeon's office. The waiting room was nice and airy with lots of lighting and pretty bright colors. There was "busy" in the air with lots of patient activity. The nurse took me back without stopping at the scales - no mandatory weigh-in! That was my sign that I was in the right place! Lol. I then met with Dr. Peter Turk who went over all available options with me. He was so thorough and so kind and thoughtful. He was able to get me on next weeks schedule for breast surgery with port placement for chemotherapy. I left the office and said "wow! I am two for two" meaning 2 great physician visits back to back with surgery within a week! I can't tell you what a relief it is to get connected up to the right people and not have to play the waiting game. I am absolutely overcome with thankfulness and gratitude right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

One of My Favorite Pictures.

November 29, 2014 - My Biggest Cheerleaders!

I took Ava and Claire to the nail salon to have their nails polished. They had secretly plotted to surprise me. They had the breast cancer awareness symbol along with lots of pink polished on their little nails. Needless to say, I was a puddle. These two truly are my biggest cheerleaders! 

November 25, 2014 - Initial oncologist visit.

I have always liked having a plan and a goal to meet so I was quite happy during our drive to the oncology office. As I was signing in, I suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline at the realization of my surroundings. I truly never thought I would be doing this - but then again, why not me? I sat down and felt my eyes moving from patient to patient and wondering about the location of their particular cancer. I saw different ones walking in with their blanket tucked beneath their arm headed to the chemo infusion room. After having worked dialysis, that was a sight all too familiar to me. I found myself remembering the movie "The Doctor" where William Hurt plays the role of a doctor turned patient. It's actually a very good movie, especially for healthcare workers. They call me back and do the dreaded mandatory weigh-in. Lol. As I am waiting for the doctor, I notice a sign on the wall that reads - LIVE every moment - LAUGH every day - LOVE beyond words. Wow!
A knock at the door and in walks Dr. William Mitchell who is a brilliant, compassionate, kind, patient and caring oncologist. He doesn't play when it comes to cancer. He leaves no stone unturned and shoots straight - exactly what I like and need. If there is such a thing as love and respect at first sight for a physician, I just experienced it! I was able to have an H&P, blood drawn and CT of abdomen, chest and pelvis all in one visit in his office today which is fantastic from a patient standpoint! Did I mention how efficient he and his staff are?! He then came back to the room carrying my films and a pack of M&Ms. He said we were going to the movies and the pack of M&Ms was our snack while we reviewed the CT films together! The laughter felt sooo good! As he was booting up his computer, I began to realize that I don't have to go home and play the terrible waiting game to get results. Waiting is the worse part. We reviewed the films together. He carefully and very slowly started at the top and went down and then went to the other side and then down the middle pointing out body parts as we were going. It was a great A&P refresher course for me! He then called the surgeon himself and my appointment is within a week! I left his office in disbelief that so much was accomplished in just one visit. I was certainly treated like royalty today! 
I received a call after I got home to tell me that he had already had my films officially read by a radiologist and there was no evidence of spread of disease anywhere but at the tumor site! 
This day turned out so well and I am so grateful for a good CT report. How can I complain about anything? Now onto the surgeon, surgery and port placement for chemo. Fear has officially moved out and faith has moved in. Let all God's people say Amen!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November 19, 2014 - Biopsy results day.

We arrived for our 08:45 am appointment at the Imaging Center. We were escorted to an office by the breast health navigator. While she was gone to find the radiologist, I found myself studying the dimly lit room with dark colored furnishings and wishing there was light and brighter colors in the room. The radiologist entered the room along with the breast health navigator. After introducing herself to my husband, the radiologist made direct eye contact with me and said "you have a little cancer." Our eyes stayed fixed on each other until she said "well?" and I said with a smile "but you said little!" At 08:52 AM, my life as I knew it ended and my unexpected journey began.

I decided to go public with my breast cancer via blogging to all of my Facebook friends and others who may be interested. I blog because I love to write and find it very stimulating. The purpose of this blog is to spread breast cancer awareness and the need for early detection and the importance of practicing preventive healthcare. I think it will also prove to be a therapeutic distraction for me. Last but not least, I hope and pray it helps others as they begin their own journey. Please travel along with me as I blog my events and progress. All comments and kind and encouraging words are welcomed and will be greatly appreciated. But above all else, please keep me in your daily prayers.
You may find me at - alwayslookforthebrightside.blogspot.com.