PSA = Public Service Announcement

Prostrate Antigen Test (PSA)

Dr. Jellyfinger I presume?

* Hello folks, the blog has once again been hijacked by Meredith’s husband

The one thing we have learned through our experiences in the hospital, chemo, and radiation facilities is that cancer does not discriminate. Cancer does not care about your age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or the fact that when you eat Captain Crunch you save all the crunch berries to eat last (ok, maybe that one is just me).

So todays PSA is aimed at the gentlemen in the audience. Ladies, you are not off the hook however, you need to listen up if you have any important men in your life – husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, boyfriends, just friends, cabana boys, etc.

PSA also stands for Prostrate-Specific Antigen test.

The common dialouge I keep hearing regarding men and prostrate cancer is not if but when we get this disease. You can be 80 years old or 40 years old. As with any cancer, early detection is the key to treatment and increasing our odds of living a longer, productive life. Family history can play a large part in your likelihood of getting prostrate cancer.

Case in point, I have a very good friend who is my age and has a familiy history of men having prostrate cancer. He made sure to have yearly testing and sure enough his PSA tests continued to increase until it was confirmed he did indeed have prostrate cancer. He went ahead with the decision to have his prostrate removed – he is 41 years old. Aside from having to sit on a donut shaped pillow for a few weeks he is now fine and cancer free.

So gentlemen, two things I recommend:

1. Get a physical. If you were like me the last time you had a physical was probably some time in high school/college when you were playing a sport. Well it is time to step up and get another one now that the hair line has started to recede and your verticle jump has decreased by about half (ok, again that may just apply to me). Yes it will probably be awkward and when the doc gets to the part where he manually checks your prostrate size, you will sing “Moon River”. Whatever, go get it done.

2. Go get your baseline PSA blood test. The recommendation is to have your PSA test starting around age 50. I say you start at age 40. Some insurances will allow an early baseline test. If they don’t I would recommend going ahead and paying for the baseline test to have the peace of mind of knowing the state of your prostrate. This test is around $125. I went ahead and paid for the test. The measurement reading for the PSA antigen is to be less than 4.0. Mine came back at .07. This at least gives me a baseline number. The expectation is that this number would gradually increase over time. However knowing the baseline number, I can be aware if there is a significant spike in that number and take preventative measures.

Thank you for your time. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

-Ed

Reconstruction – One Week Later

** Another guest post by Meredith’s husband

It has been a little over a week since Meredith’s reconstuction surgery and all has gone very well for our cute little patient. Recovery from this procedure has been night and day from the double mastectomy. Meredith is not nearly as sore and is much more mobile in the upper torso. Of course this better mobility can give a sense of confidence, so I have to remind supergirl to take it easy. She was able to wean herself off of the pain meds fairly quickly post surgery and has been very good at resting as much as possible. I think she could seriously write a book on the art of taking a nap.

Last Friday we had a follow up visit with the surgeon to remove several of the smaller dressings and to evaluate how the “new girls” looked. I am going to take it as a good thing when the doctor on initial sight says “nice boobs”.  Per the doctor, everything looked fantastic and was healing correctly.  We got the incisions cleaned up, our follow up visits booked and were out the door.

The only issue is that Meredith still has two little friends called ‘nipple guards’ that will be with her for another few weeks.  These little contraptions are definitely needed given the amount of incisions they are protecting.  The issue is that Meredith only has a few pieces of clothing that she can put on where they are not noticeable.  I sense a business opportunity here.

Gracie continues to be taking everything in stride and dealing well with all that mommy has been going through.  She is quite the little trooper.

I have a feeling I will be getting kicked off the blog here shortly but I will see if I can sneak back on when Meredith isn’t looking.

Again, we are so thankful to all are friends and family for providing meals, prayers, texts, emails, cards, and positive thoughts!

Reconstruction of the Ta Ta’s

** we again interrupt regular programming with guest posts from Meredith’s husband

Reconstruction of the Ta Ta’s is complete.  It has been a long road to this point and the journey is not over by a long shot, but hopefully we just endured the last surgery for Meredith.

There was a bit of anxiousness leading up to the surgery.  I suppose this was most apparent when Meredith’s “nesting” instincts kicked in and she decided that the entire house needed to be cleaned the day before surgery.  There was not even a peep out of me – I simply grabbed the windex and got busy.  (Take note men – this is a case of picking your battles wisely).  Honestly I think the worst part for Meredith leading up to the day was the fact that we were going to have to get up at 4:30 AM.  Saying Meredith is not a morning person is probably the greatest understatement in the history of understatements.  So, there wasn’t a ton of sleep had the night before thinking about the laundry list of procedures that Meredith was going to have to go through in the morning.

Here is a list of procedures done by the reconstructive surgeon:

  • replace existing expanders with silicon implants
  • Small lift on left non radiated breast
  • touch up scars from latissumus incisions on back
  • removal of port used for chemo/herceptin treatment
  • Liposuction of fat to smooth out left non radiated breast

Although the liposuction was a last minute addition, you can only imagine how excited Meredith was when she thought she was getting a little tummy tuck (like she needs one).  In reality he was only going to take a small amount (15 cc) from the hip area.  I did offer up some of my “baby” fat, however that was quickly dismissed by both Meredith and the surgeon.  Which is surprising since I am pretty sure I have some high quality lipids.

The only history I have for surgery was Meredith’s double mastectomy which was the longest day of my life physically and emotionally.  If you need a recap of that day you can read the live blogging post here.  So, going into this day I had no idea what to expect but was bracing for another mental roller coaster.  To both of our amazement, we were in and out and home by noon.  WTF?

Here is a brief break down of how the morning went:

5:45 – arrive at Women’s Center and check in

6:00 – Meredith goes back to get prepped for pre-op

6:30 – I get to go back and stay with Meredith

7:20 – Surgeon arrives to mark up Meredith

7:45 – she is rolled back for surgery

10:30 – Surgeon comes out and gives the awesome news that everything went great, the reconstruction looks great and she is in recovery

11:10 – I get to go back and see how she is doing

11:40 – We leave the hospital

12:00 – we pull into our place

Compared to the last surgery, this was over in a snap.  We started texting folks when we were leaving and no one could believe we were already done.  It was very surreal sitting on the couch later that afternoon and reflecting that she had just had breast reconstruction surgery in the morning and was up and walking around now.

I have to note one humorous event.  You could tell that the nurse with Meredith in the recovery room was either new or not used to working recovery.  When Meredith was in recovery and felt good enough to leave, she needed to get dressed.  The nursed placed the bag with Meredith’s clothes in it on her bed and said “here you go”.  Keep in mind that at this point Meredith is still hooked up to about 6 monitors and the blood pressure cuff is still around her arm.  After pointing out said restrictions, the nurse helped remove the leads and then promptly stood there looking at us.  It became apparent that the nurse was not sure about helping Meredith get dressed even though she had just had somewhat major surgery.  So, I stepped in to help get Meredith clothed.  Imagine playing a game of 3-D Twister with someone who can’t move very well – if such a game exists we win.

She is very glad to be home and done with this part of the journey.  She is a little sore and very tired but looks fantastic.  She is a true inspiration and Rock Star.

We have said this many times, but it bears repeating – We could not have gotten through any of this with out the love and support of our family and friends both near and far.  We are truly blessed to be is such great company.  Thank you again to everyone.  I will keep everyone posted on her recovery until she kicks me off the blog and takes over.

10 Things I Learned About Dealing with Breast Cancer

(Ladies and Gentlemen – the IT department (aka Meredith’s husband Ed) has popped in for a guest post) – colorful language warning

There are so many things you learn when helping your spouse deal with this disease known as Breast Cancer.  The following are just a couple that really come to mind (from my perspective).  These are in no particular order:

1. Take the Food
As some of you are a aware, I really enjoy cooking…a lot.  Cooking is my zen/therapy.  With all of the impending appointments, chemo-therapies, surgery and recovery, I had the vision of being able to retreat to the kitchen and relax while whipping up a tasty meal for the family.  I can totally handle cooking and nursing duties. Cue the “What the hell was I thinking” sign pointing at my head. It became apparent after planning everything out and having a ridiculous work schedule that we were going to need help with meals.  Fortunately one of our dear friends took the initiative to set up a schedule to cover meals during the most hectic times.  She used a service called mealtrain.com to setup the schedules and allow people to sign up and provide meals on available days.  This made thinking about what to have for dinner or lunch a no brainer.

2. You have a Team of Doctors
Having never been through this chaos before, we had no idea of the medical professionals we would deal with.   For some reason, we were under the impression there would be one oncologist and that person would be the point for all subsequent care.  Oh no. No no no my dear friends – there is no one stop shop for all your breast cancer needs.  You come to realize that you will be dealing with a fleet of physicians on a continuous basis.  You essentially have a team that consists of the following:

– Breast Surgeon
– Primary Oncologist
– Reconstruction Surgeon
– Radiation Oncologist
– plus all the physician assistants, nurses, and receptionists you know on a first name basis

Fortunately, we have a phenomenal team assembled and they have been brilliant in their care for Meredith.

3. You will be Humbled
You will be humbled by the outpouring of love and support by family and friends.
You will be humbled by the fact there are people you don’t know nor have met that are pulling for you and your family.
You will be humbled by the love that your team of caregivers show specifically to your situation.
You will be humbled when you are around other brave cancer patients who may not have as good a prognosis as your wife does.
I have shed many a tear over the sheer emotion this brings to me.

4. Club Breast Cancer
One thing that I have noticed is that once you have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and start treatment you join a club.  The price of admission to the club is brutal and there are no perks.  However, once in this club, the members are fiercely loyal and supportive to each other.  There is no secret handshake but they know who is in the club.  They may acknowledge each other with a simple smile, a nod of the head, or a full out bear hug in the middle of the bakery section at the local grocery store. Yes, that last example really happened to Meredith.

5. Kids are Resilient
Early on we made the decision to be very open with Gracie concerning mommy’s “boo boo”.  I believe this was the right decision and would recommend that if asked by anyone coming into a similar situation.  Being open allowed us to have Gracie be part of the process.  We used books and talked to her so she understood mommy needed to take medicine and have surgery to get better.  She was able to be a “big” girl and help with mommy’s care.  We are very proud of her.

6. Cancer Sucks
Obvious statement I know.  I am saying that in the context of the enormous reach that this disease has on women around the world.  We participated in the Komen Race for the Cure and had several friends also participate in the Komen 3-Day Walk this year.  It was absolutely jaw dropping to see how many people participate in these events.  The statistics say 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer.  Let me say that again – 1 out of 8.  That is mind blowing.  Ladies you need to go get your girls checked out.  Get a baseline mammogram and get it early – most insurances will allow for an early baseline.  Seriously, if I have to hire George Clooney to wear one of those “Free Breast Exams” shirts to get you in there I will.

7. There is no Finish Line
Fighting breast cancer is like a series of incremental steps/goals.  We’ve been diagnosed – need to secure a team of doctors.  Need to undergo chemotherapy – how many treatments, what are the side effects, and when do they end.  Need to do radiation – again how many, what are the side effects, and when do they end.   Need to get expanders out and the real implants in – when is that done.  Problem is that it doesn’t stop when you think you get to a final gate.  It is a life long battle of getting scanned, adjusting your diet, and taking every precaution to constantly improve your odds of survival.  It may seem like the battle is over, but the war wages on – do not doubt that.

8. Grey Area
The human race has come a long way regarding healthcare diagnosis and treatment.  Daily we are swapping out organs and making great strides to increase our life spans.  That said, there is still so much we don’t know.  With all of the latest and greatest technology and research there is still a very large “grey area” where not enough data is available to make definitive decisions.  So caregivers err on the side of caution and take any and all preventative treatments.  We felt this first hand with the recommendation for Meredith to undergo radiation.  All signs seemed to point to her not needing it, yet according to the radiation oncologist Meredith fell into the grey area.  Meaning it looks like chemo did it’s job and all looks well but we just don’t know if we indeed got all the cancer cells that may be outside of the local tumor.  So remember this when you make a donation to an organization benefiting breast cancer research.  Your funds are going to shrink and hopefully eliminate that grey area.

9. You say Shit and Fuck a lot more
Especially in the beginning after diagnosis.  In the beginning there is a groundswell of different emotions and conversations.  Inevitably it all boils down to one of these two words.  If only I had a dollar for every time either of us said fuck or “what the fuck?”. And we are not talking only in verbal communication, we are also talking social media F-bombs as well.  Twitter got quite an earful as well.

10. I Look Good in Pink
Yes.  Yes I do.

Two Down Two to Go

We went back to the reconstruction surgeon on Friday and fortunately Meredith was able to have the other front drain removed.  Her back two drains remain and based on the amount of fluid still accumulating, I would guess those won’t come out till late next week.  Apparently my thoughts on recording audio for the removal of this drain was leaked to Meredith.  And by leaked I am pretty sure that means she just read my last post.  Needless to say, there are no sound bites from Friday’s visit.

Meredith had her first outing this weekend as she tagged along when I had to run out to Perimeter Mall.  She looked very cute in her scarf and had a little jacket/wrap to hide the two remaining drains.  When you think about it, she has been either in a hospital room or our home for the past week and a half.  So it was nice for her to get out of the house, even if it was only for an hour.

This week holds continued recovery, follow up visits to the reconstruction surgeon, and a Herceptin treatment.  We will keep you posted and thank you again to everyone for the continued support.

One Down Three To Go

We had our first followup appointment with the reconstruction surgeon post surgery today.  They removed her bandages on the breast and back incisions.  According to the surgeon, everything looks good and is progressing as it should.   We were hoping that most of Meredith’s drains would be removed.  Unfortunately three of her drains were still filling more that 20 milliliters of fluid per day.  Based on that only her front left drain was removed.

The following is the actual conversation during drain extraction:

Physician: Ok we are about to take the drain out, it may hurt or burn a little right when it comes out.

Meredith: Ok

Physician: Ok here we go.

[pulls drain out]

Meredith: Mother of God!

Meredith: F*#k

Physician: All done

Fortunately it looks like her right front drain will be ready to come out on Friday.  I’ll try to see if I can get actual audio of that extractions.  Based on the amount of fluid still draining the back two drains won’t come out until sometime mid next week.

In other news Meredith was able to take her first half shower today.  She could stand in the shower and get her lower half wet – just no continuous water on the incisions.  She felt so good afterwards.  It is the little things that make you happy and comfortable.  It may be slower than we like, but she is making steady progress.