Nipples

nipple tattoo

ATL Ink coming soon!

Hi to all!  So this title should get your attention….keep reading!

On a lighter note, there has been a lot of activity in the Gaile household since my last post.  Gracie started Kindergarten mid-August and I am happy to report that she loves it!  Ed and I are so thrilled that she is enjoying school and looks forward to it each morning!  It makes it so much easier for us!  The same week she started school, I started doing some contract work for a friend of mine that is the Director of Child Wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  It’s part-time, flexible, and has been fun!  In addition, I am room mom for Gracie’s Kindergarten Class.  Some people have asked me what I was thinking – all this change and additional activity at the same time.  My response – I feel like I have missed 1 1/2 years of my life fighting breast cancer and am just happy to be able to do it now!  I have to say that for the first time since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I feel more like I did “pre-cancer” i.e. busy, challenged, and going constantly.  I swear only those of us that are cancer survivors truly understand this – but there really is a “pre-cancer” life vs. “post-cancer” life.  Sad, but true.  While I still am “post-cancer” and living my “new normal”, I am happy to be active and busy!

By the way, I just recently celebrated my one year anniversary of my double mastectomy.  It was September 6th (2011) – which in my mind was the real day I was cancer free.  It was the day the tumor was removed from my body!  In some ways it’s hard to believe it has been a year, in other ways it seems like forever ago.  Anyway, happy anniversary to me!  Yeah!

The following may fall into the category of “TMI” or “Too Much Information”.  So for those of you not interested…please skip to the next paragraph!  For those of you curious…keep reading.  I know I have written about this many posts ago, but the day has finally arrived.  This Wednesday morning I have what I hope to be my final reconstructive procedure – or final for a long while anyway.  I will visit with my plastic surgeon first, and then will meet the woman that will tattoo my nipples.  Yep.  You read it right.  Ouch.  The good news (or really bad depending on how you look at it) is since my double mastectomy, I don’t have any feeling in my breasts, including my nipples.  Remember, they carved out all the breast tissue and recreated my aureola and nipples from skin on my back.  So I don’t have any nerves and thus feeling.  This procedure is completely voluntary.  I could choose not to do it.  But I’ve come so far, that I really just want to look as close to “normal” or closer to how I used to look as possible.  This should be interesting.  I plan to drive myself and drive away on my own.  I know I will be patched up but it sounds like the directions and follow-up I will be given is like any other person that has gotten a tattoo.  Now for me – I don’t have a tattoo – and this will be new.  And again, for several of you that have asked me, I am not going to a tattoo parlor for this.  I will be in the comfort of my plastic surgeon’s office.  Phew!  Can you imagine the other way?!  Anyway, I am sure I will have great stories to tell on Wednesday post this procedure.  Hope you will check back.  And NO, there will not be any before and after photos!  While I joke about all of this, I really do have some anxiety around it.  I know it will be fine – especially with all I have been through – but really?!  Bottom line…this stinks.

So on a similar but different note – the other day I told someone I just recently met that I was a breast cancer survivor.  She wasn’t aware of my story as many of you reading this are.  At some point in the conversation I asked her if she had regular mammograms.  Her response was…”Well I had one years ago and am overdue.  It hurt and was so painful.”  My response, “Really!?  Let me tell you what hurts worse – 6 rounds of chemotherapy, losing all of your hair, a double mastectomy, 28 rounds of radiation (I forgot to mention the tattooing)….I think you can handle a mammogram.”  Her response, “Point Taken.”

Anyone else want to complain about mammograms?

 

* photo credit awarenessgifts

 

 

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2012

making strides

Making Strides

I just signed up for an event that’s really important to me – the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.  If you are in Atlanta, I would love for you to consider joining me and the “Gaile Force” team on Saturday, October 6 at 9:00 a.m. in Centennial Olympic Park for the walk.  If you can’t join us in person, I hope you will consider donating.  It’s for a very, very important cause and one you know is near and dear to my heart!

Last year, Making Strides raised $60 million to help people stay well and get well, to find cures, and fight back against breast cancer – and it happened one $10, $25, and $50 donation at a time. I’ve signed up for this event because I really want to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.  Your donation of any amount will help me do that.

Join my team:  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/gaile_force

Donate:  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/meredith_gaile

Thank you in advance for your support!  Hope you will join me on October 6th in the fight against breast cancer!

 

Relay for Life 2012

American Cancer Society

Relay for Life 2012 – Adams Stadium

I’ve been wanting to get this out since May…

A very good friend of ours works for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in research.  She has been a fabulous resource to me, Ed and Gracie throughout this “cancer journey.”  She does so much for the American Cancer Society and focuses daily on finding a cure for breast cancer (among others!)  Go, go, go AP!  Annually she participates in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and is one of their top fundraisers.  She graciously invited us to be her guests at the Relay in May at Adam’s Stadium (near Emory University).  Ed, Gracie and I joined her.  Wow.  What an experience.

Some of you know for years while at Georgia Tech I was involved with the American Cancer Society and our Panhellenic Fashion Show that raised money for ACS and cancer research.  Post graduation, when I worked for SunTrust Bank, I was one of the coordinator’s for the company’s Relay for Life team.  Little did I know that one day I would be on the other side as a survivor, directly affected by lack of research, and really, really, really appreciating the money raised to help find a cure!

For those that have never been to a Relay for Life, the event is kicked off with the survivors lap.  All cancer survivors gather on the track in groups by number of years as a survivor.  For so many years, I stood on the side of the track with others cheering on the cancer survivors.  Of course they always play “sappy” music which immediately makes it emotional.  I can remember always being amazed by the diversity of the survivor crowd.  I’ve said it before, cancer does not discriminate.  The young children affected always tugged at my heart.

This year, it was really, really strange to be the one on the track during the survivor’s lap.  The evening was amazing, emotional, and very surreal.  I hope you enjoy the pictures from the event.

Get ready – next year (May 2013) – we will have our own team.  Everyone of you are invited to participate!  Will you join me?

– click on any picture below and the photo will come up in a slideshow format
– use the << or >> arrows to go forward or backwards through the photos
– to exit, click on the photo you are viewing and you will be returned to the main page

 

Quite a Change from Last Summer

Summer Pics of the Family

Hi to all!  I know…long time no blog.  Thank you so much to my faithful readers that have continued to check in and and have asked about a blog update.  I really do have the intent to keep this blog going!  While the “active” treatment is behind me, I am finding that there is always something to talk about!  It’s just never ending!  What have I/we been up to lately?  Well, it’s been a really, really busy summer with our 5 yr old daughter.  I have been trying to keep up with her social schedule – camps, play dates, pool…you name it we’ve done it!  I recently told a friend that the summer has been so much crazier than the school year.  It seemed odd to me for some reason.  Then I remembered that last summer I was actively in chemotherapy and was not experiencing a normal, fun, active summer like the rest of the world.  So this year, was my turn!  While it was busy, it was fun and we have enjoyed it!  Ed, Gracie and I were also fortunate to spend the month of July in Pensacola, FL.  We enjoyed the beach, the parks, the zoo, the pool, and visitors throughout the month.  While Ed worked, he did get to join us on his days off.  It was just nice to have a change of scenery, a slower pace, and no big agenda.  We are back in Atlanta, back into a routine, and getting ready for school to start.  Gracie will be in Kindergarten this year!  So hard to believe!  She starts on Tuesday, August 14th.

Today I had my 3 month follow-up with my oncologist.  I was on my own for this appointment which I was completely fine with.  I wasn’t really expecting anything monumental.  I met with the doctor first.  She did a physical exam (which was fine),  asked some questions about how I was feeling (fine), and how I was handling the Tamoxifen i.e. any side effects (also fine).  Then it was my turn to ask questions.  I had a short list which we worked through.  “What’s next?” was a big one.  So, in October she has scheduled another CT scan to look again at the small nodule on my lung.  It will have been 6 months since my last CT scan.  If nothing has changed, I would expect her to tell me we will move to a once a year on that screening.  She seems pretty optimistic.  Let’s hope she’s right.  Also, in November, I will meet with her again (3 month check-in) and that same day will have another echo cardiogram.  Even though I have completed Herceptin and been off of it for a while, she recommends we continue to monitor my heart every 6 months for at least a year (maybe two).  So, that’s what I have coming up in the next few months related to doctor’s appointments.

After meeting with the doctor, I went to the lab to do blood work.  I didn’t wait for results and should get that call tomorrow.  I am not expecting anything but “your labs look normal.”  If I hear anything different, I will let you know.

With all that said, I have to say it was a little weird for me to be back in that office.  As I walked up, I watched a woman being wheeled out by her husband.  She had a scarf on her head and was clearly going through chemo.  Uugghh.  It sucks.  As I entered the office, I immediately made eye contact with my favorite Lab Tech.  We waved and said hello – she recognized me immediately.  That put me at ease.  Then as I sat in the waiting room, I observed all of the people waiting around me.  Like many times before, I was the youngest in the group.  But looking around also reminded me that cancer does not discriminate.  There were people of all ages, races, sex, etc.  It’s just awful.

So how am I doing? Well, if you ask, I will say “fine” or “great” – and generally I am.  But the reality is each day is different.  Some days are good and I don’t think about cancer at all.  Then, there are other days that I do.  The biggest thing to me at this point is getting my arms, my head, my thoughts around recurrence.  Will it come back?  If it does, where will it be?  Will we catch it in time?  Is it a matter of when vs. if?  Am I doing enough?  Can I even control it?

I don’t have all the answers unfortunately, but I do know that prevention is key.  So, ladies (and men with ladies in their lives) have you or your significant other scheduled a mammogram?

I’m Back

Hi to all!  So, it’s been FOREVER since I have blogged.  I am excited to be back on-line and plan to be back in the swing of writing!  I had to go back and review the last several posts written to see where I left off (or where Ed left off).  The last time I wrote was before my last surgery in April.  Thanks to Ed for updating everyone and throwing in his own commentary!

So let me go ahead and jump to today.  I am happy to report I am cancer-free, what I hope is my final surgery is complete, and I am “put back together” as I requested.   The nipple guards are gone!  Oh those were awful.

A couple of weeks ago I was cleared by the surgeon to workout.  So last week I returned to the gym and had to re-introduce myself to the treadmill!  I’m slow but making progress!  Today I actually ran.  Slow, but I ran.

Overall, I am in a good place right now.  I’m happy that the past year is behind me.  Not just for me, but my family too.  It’s been a tough year for all of us!  I/we are really trying to move on!  But it’s hard.  Everyday in someway I am reminded about what I have gone through.  Whether it’s looking at myself in the mirror, talking to someone about my journey, being asked for doctor referrals for a friend that was recently diagnosed, reading stories on the internet where women are diagnosed with breast cancer, or stories about multiple year breast cancer survivors that have had a cancer recurrence (Robin Roberts is the latest).  It’s tough.  It’s just a reminder that this is really never over!  Uugghh.  It will always be a part of my life, a part of who I am, something I will always have to deal with, and I think a constant reminder of what I have been through.

So, what’s next?

  • At this stage, I am still scheduled to meet with my Oncologist every 3 months.  My next appointment is early August.  No specific scans are scheduled, just a visit to talk about how I am doing, any symptoms I may be feeling (Seriously?  Hopefully none!), to ask any questions I may have, and to talk about next steps.  She will eventually “promote” me to every 6 months.  From there eventually an annual visit.  We still have this nodule on my lung we are watching which will likely mean another CT scan at some point.  I’m fine with that.  Better safe, than sorry.
  • I have one more plastic surgeon procedure the end of August/early September (the plan anyway).  Probably too much information for some, but reality, I am having my areolas and nipples tattooed.  They are both created from the skin from my back so they are very light in color.  If I tattoo them (which is optional), they will look more like the real thing.  For the women out there you may be thinking, are you kidding me?  Yikes!  That would hurt!  But remember, with my double mastectomy I have no feeling.  No nerves.  I can feel pressure, but have had needles stuck in my breasts and feel nothing.  Really sad in many ways, but my new reality.  So tattooing should not be a problem.  For those of you that really know me, this will be my first and last tattoo.  Not my thing really, but from the beginning I have said I want to be “put back together” and that should be the final step.  I’m sure there will be more to come on that.  And it will be done in the plastic surgeon’s office – not in a tattoo parlor!

So, that’s where I am today.  Trying to move on!  Ed, Gracie and I did participate in the Relay for Life last month in May and I have some great pictures and stories to share.  I think that will be my next post.  Was a real surreal moment!

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