Port Placement

This is what the port looks like.

The port is in.  This afternoon I had the port placed in my chest.  I have not been looking forward to it, but had to do it, and see it as the start of the journey in beating this cancer.  I have been assured a number of times that I will be happy I chose to have a port versus having them have to administer treatments through an IV each and every time.  Plus, they can do all blood work from the port too.  I get the feeling I will have blood work every time I am in that doctor’s office (which will be a lot).

Wonder what the port looks like?  It’s a small device, actually about the size of a quarter, which is used to carry medicine into the bloodstream.  The port is shaped like a triangle and is placed under the skin on your chest.  So, it’s all underneath the skin.  It’s primarily plastic but does have a little bit of titanium on it.  Great.  They tell me I will not sound off the alarm at the airport, but patients have reported that their ports have set off alarms at some retail stores.  They gave me a card to put in my wallet  to show the type of port I have if necessary.  Lovely.  Gracie will love that!  “Mommy you are setting off the alarm again!”

The procedure today was actually pretty painless thanks to the “happy” anesthesia that they gave me.  I was completely awake and coherent, just very relaxed.  While the actual procedure lasted about 45 minutes, with prep and instructions we were there for 2 hours.  It was done at the doctor’s office vs. the hospital.  Sounds like it will be sore for a few days and I will bruise – but not a big deal in the whole scheme of things.

Tomorrow we have the day off i.e. no doctors appointments.  Yippee!  Wednesday is when treatment will actually start and will be a 3 hour appointment.  Then we are back in on Thursday for another 3 hours.  For the first treatment cycle, they divide it up into two days.  Going forward, for the five remaining treatment cycles, they will combine it all into one visit.  And then on Friday I have a follow-up appointment for a shot of Neulasta – which is a medicine given post chemo to stimulate the growth of “healthy” white blood cells.  It’s going to be a long week, but we are happy to get this show on the road and I am personally anxious to see what the side effects are going to look like for me.

Ed did a little better on round 2 with the waiting room window

On another note, Ed and I did tell Gracie yesterday about “mommy’s boo boo”.  I have to say it was tougher than I thought it would be.   I did shed tears (and even more after she was in bed), but Ed and Gracie held it together.  I did some research before we talked to her and also had the help of a book that a friend gave us titled “Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo-Boo“.  It is absolutely perfect for a 4 year old and is a very gentle story explaining breast cancer to a young child.  It was written by a mom and illustrated by a child.  It’s adorable and has been and will be very helpful resource or tool in communicating this mess to Gracie.  As any 4 year old, she was very inquisitive.  Her biggest worry seemed to be around mommy losing her hair.  So we talked about scarf and hat shopping!  We read the book a number of times last night and she wanted me to read it to her again this morning.  When she woke up this a.m., she ran to our room and crawled into bed.  The first thing she said to me was “remember that you have a polka-dot boo-boo.”  Sad, but too cute.  She is clearly still processing it and will for days or weeks or months to come.  But, kids are resilient.  I know she will be fine and a huge helper to both me and Ed.  She has already told me she is going to make me breakfast in bed when I am too tired to get up.  Now that’s what I am talking about!

Ed and I continue to be overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I personally enjoy reading all of the comments on the web site, emails, texts, and voice mails.  When I am having a bad day or just a bad moment, they really do lift me up.  So for that, I thank you!

 

 

A Big Day

As you all know, today was a big day.  My oncology appointment was scheduled for 11:00 a.m.  I started the morning with an upset stomach but focused on getting Gracie to school.  After I dropped her off, I had to pick up the dry cleaning.  Not really (for the stay-at-home mom and the guy that works from home), but it filled up some time.  Then I headed to the gym for a 30 minute cardio workout.  I gave myself just enough time to get home and shower before my parents arrived at 10:30 a.m.  So we piled into the car and headed towards the Northside Hospital area.  Ed was driving (silent), my dad in the passenger seat (silent), while my mom and I were in the back covering the details of the American Idol results show the night before.

So we arrived, checked in, and were eventually called back.  I was weighed in (lovely), but no blood work today.  We were quickly moved to a room where the oncologist joined us shortly thereafter.    I was prepared to tell her to “get to the point” but what I am quickly finding out is that our oncologist is pretty direct.  That works for me.  She walked in and immediately said  “I have good news” which quickly resulted in a loud sigh of relief.  You may have wondered how much oxygen was left in the room.  She then walked through the results of the CT scan, bone scan, and echo cardiogram.  In summary, the bone scan was clean, the echo cardiogram was solid, the CT scan showed a few “minor” things – but nothing cancerous and nothing to worry about.  Phew!

From there we talked about a specific treatment plan.  There are a ton of details, but the abbreviated version is:  Monday, April 4th the port will be placed in my chest.  Wednesday, April 6th we start treatment.  We are not wasting any time.  I have to do chemo treatments every three weeks, for a total of 6 treatments.  Then we have about a 3 – 4 weeks of “recovery” time and then we will do surgery.  So my math – which is not all that good these days – puts us around September/October 2011 for surgery and reconstruction.

The oncologist also walked us through all the side effects of chemotherapy.  It sounds like it varies per patient, but in general the worst side effects are fatigue, nausea, and hair loss.  It basically sounds like the 3-4 days after the chemo treatment are going to stink.  They will give me medication to manage the nausea.  Fatigue will be real for a few days after treatment.  The hair loss will happen about 3 weeks after the first treatment.  So, by the end of April I will be bald.  Early on, I was really upset about the hair loss.  But after hearing the news today, I am so thankful it is contained, and am now focused on getting well and beating this…whatever it is going to take.  So, I think I may get a really short haircut fairly soon.  What I don’t want to happen is pulling out a handful of long hair.  That sounds awful to me.  I was opposed to a wig originally, thinking scarves were more my speed, but after several conversations with friends, I am now open to looking.  It doesn’t mean I will do it, but I am open.  So, I am starting to think about wig and scarf shopping in the next couple of weeks.  Doesn’t that sound awful?  Uugghh.

So with all that said, today we are celebrating this small victory.  It’s all relative, but we really did hear some good news today.  So thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you for your positive thoughts and prayers!  Please continue to send them my way!  This is the beginning of a long road…

 

 

 

 

Today has been tough

So, it’s been a tough day for me.  (1)  It has been rainy and gray all week in Atlanta.  Can someone also please pray for some sunshine?  I need it badly!  (2)  I can’t stop thinking about “it” today.  Maybe it is becoming more real to me.  This is really happening and not going away.  The past couple of weeks I’ve been in denial and have been able to move through each day like normal.  But today was a little different.  (3) This “sit and wait” for results thing is for the birds.  It’s killing me.  I would like to be confident that the cancer has not spread and I am trying.  I’m really trying.  But, I can’t stop thinking about “what if it has spread?”  Uugghh.  We will know for sure on Friday.  Hope I can make it until then.

On a positive note, I am getting a massage tomorrow.  Can’t wait!  I have so much tension in my shoulders and neck you would not even believe it – or maybe you would.

Side note:  While I am typing this post, my home phone rings and the caller ID shows it’s my oncologist.  My heart drops into my stomach thinking it’s the doctor calling me early with the results.  I pick it up completely sick to my stomach and it is an automated message confirming my Friday appointment.  People please.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the kind words of support.  Ed and I both have received a ton of emails, comments on the web site, and phone calls.  So, thank you.  Please know we are listening to and reading every single one of them and sometimes twice!  And they are all appreciated.  One thing is very clear, we have lots of support!  And we are very thankful for that.

More Tests Today

Ed and I were up at the crack of dawn this morning and at the hospital at 7:00 a.m.  Most of you know I am not a morning person.  Never have been, never will be!  It also didn’t help that I think I slept a total of 2 hours the night before.  And I couldn’t have anything to drink or eat until all of the tests were over – so no coffee.

I started the morning in Radiology and received an injection for the bone scan.  By the way, I am radioactive at the moment.  Cool.  Then I moved on to Cardiology for an echo cardiogram.  (It is just like the ultrasound you have when you are pregnant except it’s of your heart).   Then I moved on to have a CT scan where they are checking for cancer cells in all the major organs, and finally back to Radiology for a bone scan.  All of them were painless, just exhausting.

A couple of stories:  (1) I had to drink “contrast” last night in preparation for the CT scan.  I had a choice of flavors and decided on the orange/vanilla flavor.  They told me to put it in a cup, put a straw in it, and pretend it’s a milkshake.  Yeah right.  I will probably never want to drink anything that tastes like orange again!  (2) While waiting for the CT scan, I had to complete some paperwork while waiting in the lobby.  When I was done, Ed took the clipboard up to the woman at the desk for me.  Well, she was behind a sliding glass window.  Ed thought it was open so he reached out and put the clipboard straight into the glass.  It was early and it woke everyone up.  It was hilarious.  (3) When we were done at the hospital, in the car, and about to pull out of the parking lot we noticed a man on his stomach, face down in the middle of the road.  Another man appeared to be down by his head trying to talk with him.  We immediately panicked and talked about what to do.  We were at a hospital with an emergency room for goodness sake.  And then seconds later we realized they were workmen inspecting something.  Phew.  That would have been a terrible ending to our morning at the hospital.

So, now we wait.  And waiting isn’t easy!  Our next appointment with the oncologist is this Friday, April 1st in the morning.  She will have all the test results and share them with us at that time.  We are hoping to hear that everything is contained in my right breast.  Please pray that is the case.  I don’t even want to think about the alternative.  We will also have her recommendation on a specific course of action for me.

Thanks to everyone for the emails, calls, texts, cards, and kind words.  It’s very comforting during this difficult time to know we have so much support.

The Beginning of a Long Journey

So, it all began the end of February.  I went in for my annual OB/GYN appointment and my doctor found a lump in my right breast.  With no history of breast cancer in my family, he didn’t think it was anything but referred me to a breast care specialist to be sure.  A couple of weeks later, on March 15th, I went in for a mammogram, an ultrasound, and met with the doctor immediately following.  The doctor showed us the ultrasound and looked right at me and told me it was cancer.  What?  I went into that appointment thinking it was going to be nothing, so those were not the words I was expecting to here.  While I was there, the doctor did a biopsy of the tumor and I had an MRI later that afternoon.  It was a long day and a day I won’t forget.  Side note:  the MRI is awful.  It is worse than what you see on TV.   They put you in this tube, it’s loud, and you can’t move – at all.  The technician told me not to sneeze or we would have to start all over.  Perfect for the girl that has bad allergies…and it’s pollen season!  Anyway, I got through it and the results of the biopsy and MRI told us that I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma.  It’s the most common type of breast cancer and the most treatable.  We know that the tumor is fairly large.  It’s the size of a strawberry (or a little bigger) and we know it is fast growing.  Oh boy.  The MRI showed that my left breast is completely clean.  It did show that one lymph node on my right side is “irregular.”  That could mean that the cancer cells have moved into the lymph node or it could mean they did not get a clear MRI reading.  Don’t know exactly, but will soon enough.

A week later, on March 23rd, we met with the oncologist.  She talked us through more specifics of the biopsy or pathology reports and we talked about treatment options.  The oncologist still needs some additional data to get specific but we walked away with a fairly high level plan.  On Tuesday, March 29th, I go for additional tests:  a bone scan, a CT scan, and an echo cardiogram.  The bone scan and CT scan will tell us if the cancer has spread to other parts of my body.  Please pray it hasn’t!  The echo cardiogram will ensure my heart is in good shape to withstand treatment.  So, treatment.  Well, I will have to undergo chemotherapy.  And that will happen first and fairly quickly.  Followed by surgery – most likely a mastectomy.  And then reconstruction i.e. new boob(s).  From what I understand, the typical treatment plan for breast cancer is to do surgery first to remove the lump, then chemo, and then reconstruction.  But over the past, call it 10 years or so, they have in many cases flip flopped the treatment.  Data shows equally are effective.  If I do chemo first, they will be able to watch the lump decrease in size and thus will know the chemo they have selected is working and killing any other cancer cells that may be in my body.  It is sounding like I will have chemo every 2 -3 weeks, for 6 – 8 treatments.  I will lose my hair approximately a few weeks after my first treatment.  Lovely!  Then once chemo is over, I will have surgery to remove the right breast.  But, at this point I am thinking about having a double mastectomy just so I don’t have to go through this again!  And at the time of surgery we will do reconstruction.  So I will get a new set of boobs.  And I will be lobbying for a tummy tuck while I am in there!  We will see how that goes!

We meet with the oncologist on Friday, April 1st to discuss the test results and a specific treatment plan for me.  Right now I am scheduled to have a port placement on Monday, April 4th in my chest (yuck) so that they can administer chemo and do all the blood work from there.  While it sounds absolutely awful, I am told by many that I will appreciate having it there vs. having to go through my arm every time.  And if all goes as planned, I bet I will be starting chemo later that week – the week of April 4th.  But we don’t know for sure yet…

How are we doing?  Ed and I have been operating primarily from a place of denial.  We have good moments and bad ones.  I physically feel fine but the past couple of weeks have just been mentally draining.  We feel so lucky to have such a great support system.  Our family, friends, and neighbors are awesome.  We are going to need all the love, support, and help we can get throughout this process.  We haven’t told Gracie yet, but will soon.  And are doing the best we can to spread the word.  It’s difficult though to repeat it over and over again.  For those of you we have not talked to personally, we hope you understand.

Why is this happening to me?  That’s a question I ask often.  I don’t know.  But those of you that know me, know that I believe things happen for a reason.  Is there a mission in this for me?  Don’t know but I bet I will figure it out through this process.  We are ready to fight this and win.  We have to.  There is no other choice.

My “IT Department” has created this web site to allow us to keep everyone posted and in the loop throughout this process.  We hope you will find it helpful.