Thursday, February 19, 2009

Read at Your Own Risk

I couldn't sleep. Again. I'm so tired of the pain on my right side, I don't know what to do. My left side drain seems to be draining properly and isn't really giving me much issue. I know the right side drain is clogged. Want to know how I know? Not much is draining into the drainy thing-a-do AND I'm swollen like about 200 times more than the other side. I took a picture to prove I'm not exaggerating. Notice the HUGE difference in sides? (I edited out the surgery scars)
I had a planned doctor's visit today. Mom and I scampered out the door only stopping to buy me a hazelnut ice coffee from McDonald's. Tasty! Even with my wonderful coffee drink, I'm still in a just horrible mood. It wasn't just lack of sleep that got my mood bad, but another heart stopping lump that I found. Yes, before going to sleep I was messing with the drain on my right side and thought I felt something hard just under the skin. It felt about the size of a pea. I messed with it for about half an hour hoping it would disappear somehow. When the silly thing never went away, I had to wake up Tom. Conversation went a little something like this:
Tom: What's the matter?
Crazy Cancer Girl: I found a lump
Tom: WHAT?
CCG: Feel this (grabbing his hand and pulling it toward the area of said lump)
Tom: (pulling hand back not wanting to feel) I don't want to feel. There is nothing I can do tonight.
CCG: Just feel it!
Tom: Why? How is that going to make you feel better?
Tom: (sigh) Ok, where is it?
CCG: (placing Tom's hand on the lump) Here. Do you feel it?
Tom: Yes, there is definitely something there, but don't wig out. It could be anything. Make sure you ask the doctor about it. Please get some sleep now.
CCG: (Totally wigging out and getting hysterical on the inside) Ok, good night. And thanks.
CCG: (Lying in bed worried and wide awake all night.)
Tom: (Lying in bed worried and unable to get back to sleep because of worry.)
Anyway! We get to the doctor and I tell her my right drain is clogged. She, of course, being the professional, messed around with it for 20 minutes before announcing to me that the drain was clogged. She's good, that gal. So here is what happens when your breast drain gets clogged up (read at your own risk):
1. tape is removed from part of stitched up breast area
2. area is wiped clean
3. local anaesthesia shot
4. giant needle - like you see on cartoons with a HUGE suction thing on the back (sorry about all the medical terms, hope all you non medical people are still able to follow this) is poked into swollen area
5. pull back the suction thing anddddddd....... nothing
6. turn needle in different direction and pull back ......... nothing
7. turn again and......... nothing
At this point I had to tell her that I thought perhaps what she was doing wasn't working - she obviously was unable to figure this out on her own. Eventually enough - she did agree.
8. repeat steps 1 - 4 but about two inches over from where she tried the first time.
9. pull back suction thing andddddddd...... viola!
Seriously, by the time she fill that giant needle thingy (I didn't look to see how much liquid it held, but my guess is a couple gallons), I felt so much less pain. Much less pressure under my arm.
I did ask her about the lump, but she wasn't even slightly concerned. She said there was no way that went unnoticed during surgery. She said it was probably just a fatty build up that happened after surgery. Promised me it was nothing. Whew. Those are words I can trust now.
I go back to the doctor on the 27th and HOPEFULLY I will get these horrible drains removed. I pray they get removed and I pray that until they finally do, I am able to live more comfortably with them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Random Items

This is a picture of a breast cancer cell. Neat, huh? I just copied that off the net, so I don't know anything else about it except that it's a breast cancer cell. Probably not actual size.

I have had many people call and e-mail me to let me know they are having problems posting comments. I don't know why. I did a tiny amount of research and found where it says that this is an issue they have been working on since Dec 29. Sorry, y'all. It's a free blog site, so I guess I'm getting what I pay for.

I'm insanely sleepy today. I've not had the energy to get up and do anything. My pain level is starting to ease, but is still worse than I expected to be by this time.

My mom has been doing a fantastic job helping me out. She's driving me to doctor appointments and cooking and cleaning and laundry. Thanks, Mom!

And that's it. I will post to let y'all know what happened after my appointment tomorrow.

Good night!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tom Here on Sheri's Behalf

Sheri is having a bad night after a not-so-bad day. She's in a lot of pain from ... surgery, drain tubes, we fear BLOCKED drain tubes, and nausea, which could be from the pain, or the pain pills, or both. Whatever the causes, since she's too blah to blog, but is nonetheless bursting at the seams with news too weird and too good to keep to herself, she asked me to pinch hit for her. Gladly!

A quick refresher:

1. The MRI results were NOT good! It showed "hot spots" or "areas of concern" in ...

A) Sheri's left breast, which indicated that the tumor was bigger than they first thought. Recall that they started out with an estimate of 6 to 7 millimeters (about 1/4 inch). Then every time we talked to them after that, they upped the estimated size even more! First it was 1.5 cm (about 1/2 inch), then they went over 2 cm (about 3/4 inch). That in turn moved her from a stage 1 tumor to a stage 2 tumor.
B) The lymph nodes on the left side. The oncologist estimated that 1 and possibly 2 nodes were cancerous. (She put it at 80 percent that Sheri had cancer there.) Based on this, she went on and staged Sheri as a Stage 2, N1 (one node).
C) Her right breast, where there showed several ... spots. The oncologist didn't say they were cancer. Could be pre-cancerous, she said. (Still not good.)

2. Surgery removed everything in question. Recall that they did a quick check for cancer in her lymph nodes during surgery and didn't find any. But pathology had a boat load of tissue to search through and we were told that it could be several days before we got the results of checks on her left and right breasts and her lymph nodes.

Today was the day!

Okay, Sheri's nodes are clean. We've come to LOVE percentages based on these two numbers alone. Sheri was given that original 90 percent chance that she didn't have cancer. Frankly, she was too cocky, based solely on those odds. She was as you all know the "1 in 10." Someone had to be. Now, faced with the 80 percent chance of having cancer in her lymph nodes, she accepted her fate. She HAS TO BE in the 8 out of 10, right? Wrong! Ha! Is God trying to tell us something?

We'll just thank God and try to make sense of this another day.

The spots in Sheri's right breast were not cancer. Again, thank the Lord! She can't remember for sure what the clinician said they were. She remembers that it's rare. I've taken a guess that she said it was calcification. It's a guess! If someone is smart enough to know that's not possible, keep it to yourself. Deal?

Here's the kicker....

From the outset, Sheri has been given the "opportunity" to save her breast (left) or breasts (both). They were less enthusiastic about doing lumpectomies after the MRI showed "the spots" in Sheri's right breast. They said, "If that's pre-cancerous tumors then I'm afraid we'll be chasing the cancer, but if you want to try to save your breasts, it's an option that's still on the table." Sheri of course thought about it (who wouldn't?), but in the end, you know her decision.

So, the tumor which just keeps getting bigger and bigger was upped today to almost 3 centimeters, which God only knows how big that is in a unit of measure that we can understand. I believe they ended up quadrupling that tumor's estimated size over the past 2 months. Next month it will be a bolder!

But it gets better!

Sheri's left breast has gotten more attention over the past 2 months than Jessica Simpson's waistline, butt, and ugly jeans combined! She has routinely and repeatedly had doctors give her breast exams. She's had probably 8 to 10 mammography shots from virtually every imaginable angle. She's had a sonagram. She's had the MRI. After all of that, she still had the option of them performing a lumpectomy. And had she made that choice, she would have never known about a SECOND tumor in her left breast! Gasp!

You read right friends and fellow countrymen. They missed a tumor of 1.3 centimeters in her left breast! Even as I type this, my head is still reeling! I don't even know what to do with this news except to thank God!

We have had one weird incident after another throughout this ordeal. Recall that Sheri went in for a low thyroid and her family doctor who she just met decided to do a breast exam. He felt something. But ... even after the mammogram CONFIRMED a lump, neither the surgeon nor the oncologist could find it during their exams. I should say, they couldn't find EITHER ONE OF THEM! If you don't believe in God then you say, "Wow, how lucky!" I say "wow" alright, but I end it with "how wonderful! Thank you Lord!"

From that so-called flukey first lump discovery to the so-called flukey second lump discovery and every day and every way in between, the Lord has been there. He could have dazzled us without cancer, but there's something about the cancer that seems to guarantee that we're paying attention. We are! We are impressed! And humbled. And eternally thankful.

Lord willing, Sheri will be back tomorrow night with hopefully more light and laughter. I like a good yuck too, but right now I am just too blown away by God to joke much.

As always, thank you for your prayers, kind thoughts, generousity, warmth, and friendship. You are all wonderful!

Lord bless.


Monday, February 16, 2009

A Strong Woman

Two unbelievable months ago all of this started. Since being diagnosed, I've heard a lot of people call me a strong woman. Many people expressed that they don't think they could do what I'm doing. I have to do this, what other choice do I have?

There was a time when it wasn't a black or white choice. In the beginning there was a gray choice. I had options! After my MRI results showed what could possibly be four small areas of cancer in my right breast, and a large portion of the original lump had been left behind in my left breast, I lost the gray. My only choice became black or white: lose the cancer-filled breasts or keep them and let the cancer spread throughout my body. Here I am now, two months later, staring at my chest where my breasts used to be. I had no choice. I have no choice but to keep going through this.

Today was the day the bandages came off. Today I'm back falling apart again. I believed people when they told me I was so strong and confident. It's days like today that make me realize I'm not strong. Being forced down a path that I never wanted to go down isn't an accomplishment. At times, I've walked this journey with my head held high in determination, but there were times I was clawing the ground with my fingernails and begging God to not make me walk any farther.

I'm glad I'm keeping this blog so I can go back and read previous posts. I'm using them as a way to remind me of the blessings that have come about from my cancer. Today I stepped out of the first shower since my mastectomy and I needed those reminders. I was so happy to finally be able to bathe since my surgery, but I wasn't prepared for that first real look at myself in the mirror. I don't know how long I stood there - I think I was in shock. No amount of reading, researching or looking at post surgery pictures of other women could have prepared me for that moment.

After quite awhile, I decided I just couldn't stand looking at myself anymore. It's a weird experience when you are in such a state of shock that you don't realize you had started crying. I was feeling sorry for myself. I hate that. The best thing I could do was just get dressed and try and forget about what I've lost and how I desperately wanted it back.

I'm not strong. I'm doing what I have to do. God didn't give me a choice.

*note: It's almost 4am and I've still not been to bed. I posted this much earlier in the night and I just finished reading it again and trying to save it into something that isn't rambling nonsense. I was going to just delete it and start over tomorrow, but I'm too emotional. Anything else I write right now will probably turn out like this. Let me fight this depression then I'll be back with my usual weird blog posts.

God Bless,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wonderful Gifts

First things first...


Now - I want to say thank you to everyone for all the wonderful presents that have been sent to me. Flowers, plants, scarves, hats, cards, chocolates, muffins, fruit and a wonderfully tasty cookie bouquet that I did not share. This is not the official thank you to everyone that gave me gifts - I just wanted y'all to know I am receiving AND appreciating them. I've fallen behind on replying back to e-mails and returning phone calls.

Tom was right...I don't deserve all of this.

Thanks to all of y'all I've been able to find so many blessings from breast cancer. I wouldn't wish this disease on anyone, but I hope everyone is able at sometime in their life to feel the love and caring that has been poured my way. The constant prayers, encouragement, advice and comments on my blog from people I've never met overwhelms me. My family would drop anything and everything to help me. Old friends and new friends are bringing me food and prayer. I love you all! But you're not getting any of my cookies.


Pain today has been almost unbearable. Yesterday I was miserable, but able to get up and walk around - today I've been in my bed or recliner with very little movement in between. Tomorrow will be better, right?

Feeling Swell

It's the middle of the night and I just got off the phone with my surgeon. Because I have these neat little drains hanging down from my chest, I shouldn't have much swelling - but I do. And it is getting worse.
It started this afternoon when I realized it hurt when my right arm was flat against my body. It also hurts to lift my arms any higher than chest level (that part is normal though.) Mom agreed that the swelling was bad and we talked about putting in a call to the doctor's office. We decided to wait until tomorrow (Sunday) to see if it would get better on it's own.
My armpit area on up to my collar bone hurts like crazy. I also noticed that my neck felt warm to the touch. Upon closer inspection, it appears the neck wanted to join in on the swell fun. I can't get a decent picture for you to appreciate just how much my neck has puffed out and turned red. Tom said he can't tell that my neck is swollen. This amazes me. I used to think Tom was a pretty dang smart guy. I guess it's true what they say: you never really know someone until you lose your breasts.
Anyway, I checked my paperwork and it said to notify my doctor if I have any unusual pain or swelling. This is my first (and last!) double mastectomy, so I have no idea what is considered to be pain and swelling out of the ordinary. I woke up my surgeon and described the pain (the most horrible pain in all the world and the pain pills weren't working and I was even taking more than I was directed to'd she like those apples, hmm?) I told her about the swelling, too. She wanted to know which side. I told her the right side. She said it was the port-a-cath that was probably causing the "discomfort" and nothing for me to worry about. I was told to double check the drains to ensure there were no clots clogging them up. Gross.
OH! And I could try Advil to help manage the pain.
And she went back to her comfortable sleep.