Saturday, February 7, 2009

When to Worry

Last night was a bad, bad, bad, bad night. Bad!

Tom and the kids went to bed last night. I decided I would stay up to worry about nipples. As many of you know, worrying about nipples is very thirsty business. Sooo, I went to pick up my little half empty glass of water and almost dropped it, because of a stabbing pain in my elbow. It took a second for that to register before I got physically sick from panic. All I could think was that my dad was right to be upset with me for cancelling my bone scan last week. At my last appointment with Dr Young, she asked me if I was having any unexplained pain in my bones. Nope, I told her, only emotional pains. I was so cocky; I was feeling fine! Now here I am having a sudden sharp pain in my right elbow.

RATS! Bone cancer?

I had no idea what to do. I thought about waking Tom, but I knew that I would only end up worrying him, too. Might as well just let him sleep. Unfortunately, each moment that passed last night the more anxious I got. Even the slightest weight put on my elbow would cause pain. At 4:30am, I was playing online bingo in an attempt to get my mind off this new found panic. It had an added benefit of being very boring; therefore, finally getting me tired enough to be able to fall asleep.

When I woke up this morning, my elbow was still hurting just as badly; so, I knew I had to tell Tom. I calmly told him about the sudden, unexplained pain. Bless Tom, he was so sweet. He talked about how it was too early to be alarmed. He said he knew it had to be rough for me, because with every new pain comes the fear that the cancer has spread elsewhere in my body. I showed him my arm and it was then that he wanted to know about the bright red scrape and the bruise on my forearm and elbow.


Ohhh! I forgot I banged my elbow while taking out the trash yesterday.

Never mind.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Losing a Part of Me

How long until she is able to put her arm down? Since I'm having both breasts removed, my fear is that I'll look like I'm being held up at gun point for days on end. Truth is, I know that it will be painful for me to lift my arms for quite a long period of time after surgery.

We can all pretend that poster doesn't look THAT bad. But it does. Who can tell me what is missing from this picture? Class? Class? Anyone? Anyone? (Julie H., please close your eyes, because talk is going to be about nipples.)

I am going to lose my nipples. That is messing with me worse than you can even imagine. I know that there are people out there who are missing arms and legs and would trade places with me in a heartbeat. They're just nipples! Yeah, but they're mine.

Due to the fact that my surgery needs to happen without anymore delay - plus the added fact that they want to start chemotherapy as quickly as possible after surgery - I will not be able to have reconstructive surgery at the same time that I have my breasts removed. Things will be delayed greatly if we try to schedule my breast removal to be followed immediately with plastic surgery. You see, I need to be healed before I can start chemo. Reconstructive surgery slows healing time. If you do not start the reconstruction process right after the original surgery, your nipples will be lost. I know, I know, I know! My life is worth so much more than something so trivial as nipples. I'm scared what it will be like to wake up without breasts AND any hint of what should be there.

(My cousin's boyfriend offered to donate his nipples to me - he said boys don't need theirs. I had to kindly decline that touching offer. Thank you, Rick! I will bake you cookies.)

The fun part is knowing that after all is said and done...once all the cancer is blasted out of my body...I get to start painful surgery all over again with the reconstruction process. I have to remind myself to not think about any of this mess right now. This was supposed to be my nine days of no cancer talk. Easier said than done. I'm only supposed to be thinking about the next step that lies ahead on this journey. Again, easier said than done. Tonight I fell off the wagon.

Here's where I am right now: my house is clean; my laundry is caught up; I'm having a wonderful time with my family; I'm laughing with neighbors and I'm feeling less stress than I've felt since the day I found out I have cancer. But, I still have that little voice in the back of my mind reminding me that I have cancer.

Cheesecake might shut that voice up.
Only one way to find out!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seven Days

An actual phone call:

Sheri: Hello?
J: Hey! You didn't update your blog yesterday.
S: I've nothing new to report about the cancer until after my surgery on the 12th. I thought I made that clear on my last post.
J: So?
S: (sigh) The point of this blog is to update about my breast cancer.
J: So?
S: I'm done with doctor appointments and tests. There is nothing more for me to put in the blog until I have my surgery.
J: But I like your blog and you are so beautiful and I've discovered that if I do not read your blog everyday that I cannot make it through the day. Yesterday I spent 12 hours in the fetal position while waiting for your new post. Please don't make me go through another day like that again.
S: Others feel this way?
J: Everyone in the world.
S: I had no idea.
J: There is no way you would have known, because you are completely free of ego.
S: I will admit that is one of my better qualities - and I have many. Hey? You want me to list all my great qualities?

Obviously, the call went on for many hours after that and I don't have to time to type all that out.

SERIOUSLY now - the purpose of this post is to say thank you to everyone for their kind words about my blog. You've no idea how good it makes me feel to know that a) people are actually reading what I'm typing and b) that people are enjoying it. As anyone can imagine, going through this is a roller coaster of emotions. The wonderful feed backs, kind words and especially all the prayers have made this almost bearable at times. If no one minds, I think I'll continue posting for the next 7 days, even if there are no more breast cancer updates.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nine Days

Today was my last doctor visit until my surgery on the 12th. No more tests or consultations or anything else. All I have to do is count down until the surgery date. On Feb 12, I will be having my breasts removed along with some lymph nodes and up to four drains put in. I will have a shunt implanted above my heart for chemotherapy. On the 12th I will find out if I need radiation or not; it's depending on how many lymph nodes show cancer and how close to my chest wall the tumor is. All that and they think I should be out of the hospital and happily at home the next day. Happily was my word. It was sarcasm.

I'm not going to sit around worried about what is going to happen in 9 days. I'm no longer going to spend all day and night researching breast cancer or crying on the phone to people because I have breast cancer. It's all pretty much set now. No matter what else I learn or how sad I get between then and now, nothing is going to change. This operation is going to happen. And I'm ok. I am truly ok.

I can't imagine that I will be updating my little blog everyday between now and then. I guess I could keep updating the blog, but it seems unlikely that people will keep coming back to read things like, "today I was going to wash clothes, but my Netflix movies came in so I ate an entire bag of Cheetos and watched movies."

Here's hoping Netflix comes in tomorrow!

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Journey

I'm looking at breast cancer not as a battle, per se, but as a journey. I know a lot of survivors say they won the battle and I think that's awesome. They did win. But for me, I don't feel that I'm fighting. Not really.

What I have done is to see the best doctors in the Kansas City area. I've listened to their advice and prayed to God to guide me in the correct direction. I will now do everything in my power to survive.

My power is praying, asking for prayer and following the advice of doctors and specialists that I trust. My journey is doing these things one at a time. (Does any of this make sense?) For me a battle is mean and fierce and bloody and painful. Yep, cancer is mean and fierce and bloody and painful, but I'd rather look at it as a path I'm being forced to follow. (Now is anyone following?)

I have absolutely no idea how this journey is going to end. I don't. I know how I PRAY it will end. Is everyone aware that since the day I found out I have breast cancer my survival rate has done nothing but drop? I started out having a 92% survival rate. Once it was discovered that I was triple negative I moved down to 77% survival rate. Right at this moment I have been moved to the lovely rate of 68% chance of making it through alive. All I want to do is live. My family wants me to live. My friends want me to live. People I have never met and yet they are praying for me want me to live. As far as I'm concerned: I have a 100% chance or a 0% chance. All the numbers the doctors keep throwing around are a pure waste of my time.

Today I took my first real step on my journey. I cut my hair off. It was a horrible painful thing for me to do. I cried. I cried because I cut my hair! How sad is that? But I'm determined to find the good with every step I take. Today someone will get 24 inches of the most beautiful hair in allllllllllllllllllllllllll the world. My awesome, wonderful and beautiful friend Robyn sent me this Bible verse today: 2 Kings 2:23-24:

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

When Robyn sent that verse, I was in the process of getting my hair cut. I told no one I was going to cut my hair today. I wasn't sure I could go through with it and didn't want people asking me about it if I ended up chickening out. (I feel that way about going on a diet, too. If you tell people you are going to do something and then you don't do it, someone might laugh - or mention it in their blog. I personally don't know anyone like that, but I've heard they are out there. Those people are bad, but you must love them anyway.)

I know God is looking out for me - even for something as simple as a haircut. My haircut had to be done and I am now not even slightly upset about it. Thank you, God.

And to you, Robyn, I promise to never tell anyone of your random act of kindness. (By the way, if anyone hasn't read Rob's comment to me under the "Perhaps I was too hasty" entry, I highly recommend you do. Things are so much clearer now.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Prayer Works

So much for taking the night off.

I decided yesterday to take today off from the blog since there wasn't going to be anything more to report until tomorrow. Turns out I was wrong. And I was bored. And I had a nightmare, so I was having a tough time going back to sleep.

First and foremost, I realized I had forgotten to share a very uplifting story about how God has guided us when we needed Him. There is that saying that goes: "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." We turned to God and He gave us the answer we needed, but not necessarily what I wanted to hear.

As y'all know, my oncologist first recommended the best course of treatment for me would be a simple lumpectomy followed up with a pretty mild chemotherapy (she said I wouldn't even lose my hair) and radiation. Tom and I were both bothered a little, because this seemed an extremely unaggressive approach to what I know to be a very aggressive cancer. Tom asked Dr Young flat out, if I were her sister - would it cause her to change her treatment plan. She, of course, said no. But! We had the option to go ahead and have my left breast completely removed or both - should I worry about the cancer ever returning. What a choice.

My very emotional choice was to find a new oncologist, which we were unable to do. I had decided I was scared and I couldn't risk the cancer ever returning therefore I was going to have a double mastectomy. Tom told me to really think and pray about the doctor's opinion and advice. Of course this upset me! I was already getting the poster boards out for picket signs. My plan was to march around the hospital with a sign that said, "Dr Young doesn't care about Sheri's cancer." Now I had to add, "and neither does Tom." (I was never really going to do that, you know, right? That is a huge hospital, and I'm very lazy.) I did give Tom and the doctor the silent treatment - the doctor didn't notice and I think Tom enjoyed it.

Anyway! We decided the best thing we could do was to turn this decision over to The Lord. Tom and I prayed together and told God that we were leaving this up to Him to give us the answer for which we were searching. The next day is when I got the call from my favorite person Donna telling me it appeared that I have cancer in both breasts. I know God's watching out for me and guiding me - I just have to remember to ask Him to lead instead of the doctors.

AND secondly: After much prayer, it has been decided that I will be cancelling the two tests I have scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. I had been praying to decide if I really needed the tests. The two scans were going to cause me to be at the hospital all afternoon, which meant Tom had to miss more work, and we had to make special arrangements for the kids. Something inside me kept telling me I didn't need those tests. I finally told Tom my concerns, which is when he confessed to having the same thoughts, too. We prayed together and feel very much at peace with this decision.