Archive for April, 2009
I had an appointment with my oncologist a couple of weeks ago and she wanted to repeat a blood test that I had recently since it was off by a small amount, but none the less, off. During the visit I had found out I only have 4 Herceptin treatments to go and I am officially DONE with breast cancer treatment after 18 months of grueling therapy. I, of course, was very excited to only have 4 more treatments left.
At the same appointment the doctor repeated the blood test that was askew, and a couple of days later I got a phone call from an oncology nurse that the doctor wanted me to have a bone scan since the second blood test came back outside the range of normal. Bone scans are generally used to see if cancer has spread to your bones, so needless to say, I was a little concerned and disappointed since I am so close to being done with treatment. I just kept thinking, “I can’t stating this whole chemo thing over again right now”. My hair is finally back to normal. I just finished all that crap and I deserve a rest.
During the bone test today, a radiologist doctor just happened to be there watching my scan waiting to use the Gamma Ray machine for something else, so she observed my scan. She came into the room to talk to us afterwords and was kind enough to briefly read the scans and tell us that she doesn’t see anything to cause her to believe that the cancer has spread at all to my bone. Thank you Jesus!
We were very happy to find out I have a clean bill of health.
We have been really lucky during my treatment in many ways. For whatever reason, I have been in the right place, at the right time, with the right doctor, or health care provider and have not had to wait long for test results, scans, or other tests because of that. Must be God working on my side.
Please continue to pray for my recovery and health. I hope to live a long, happy life and to enjoy watching my kids and some day grandkids grow-up.
Add comment April 28th, 2009
Today I had an appointment with physical therapy to help with lymphoedema. After my most recent surgery, my hand and right arm (the side where I lost my breast) started to swell a bit. I had several lymph nodes removed when I had my mastectomy (over a year ago) since they found cancerous cells had spread to my nodes. Lymphoedema isn’t to be confused with Lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that has to do with the lymphatic system in your body.
Lymphoedema can be serious if you don’t treat it. Your arm can swell more and more until you can’t move it and there is a lot of pain and risk of developing an uncontrolled infection in the affected limb.
Treatment involves exercise, wrapping the arm to force the fluid out of it into the trunk of your body to be eliminated by the rest of your lymphatic system. Massage is a way of moving the fluid, and if it is really severe, surgery. I had my arm pretty well under control with exercise in the pool. However, my most recent surgery 2 weeks ago started the swelling in my arm and due to the incisions I have not been able to go in the pool yet. Next week I am going back to the pool, so I am counting on it reducing and controlling the swelling in addition to some more physical therapy.
Add comment April 25th, 2009
Happy Dance!! I had an oncology appointment today and my doctor said I only have 4 infusions left of Herceptin. I will be finished in July. I can’t wait!!! It will be so nice not to be poked and prodded every few weeks any more. I cannot believe I have made it this far. Looking ahead when I was diagnosed to the year and a half of treatment was truly overwhelming. You wonder how you will ever make it to the end. To be honest, it went quicker than I expected it to.
I was also surprised to find out that my doctor came up with another treatment option for me. Cancer treatment changes almost weekly. She said that the same drug they use to treat Osteoporosis has been used in studies to treat aggressive cancers like mine and they have had success with it. I will have an infusion of Reclast (zoledronic acid) every 6 months for 3 years. In addition to treating cancer it will also help to prevent me from getting osteoporosis, which is now a risk due to chemo and being in early menopause from chemo.
She also approved my trip with Casting for Recovery. I had to have a medical release signed by her that states I am healthy enough to go on the trip.
There is life after recovery!
Add comment April 17th, 2009
I had my post operation appointment with the physicians assistant for my plastic surgeon. She asked me how I was doing and I said, “no big deal. I am fine.” She laughed and remarked how this is all no problem for me. Most women who come in for a breast lift come back afterwards to thier post op crying and saying it is the worst thing that has ever happened to them and they are so misserable. I hardly notice. Compared to the other surgeries I have had, the worst being the mastectomy, this was a walk in the park. It’s all relative!
The proper name for a breast lift is a mastopexy.
Add comment April 16th, 2009
I had a pleasant surprise today in my mail box. A few months ago I read about a program called “Casting for Recovery” for breast cancer survivors. They have retreats all over the United States (all expenses paid) for breast cancer survivors. I submitted my name several months ago when I read about it in a magazine while I was at chemo. Today I got a letter that said I was chosen for a retreat in Oregon this summer. I think they just draw your name at random, so I felt pretty lucky. I am very excited about it.
If you are interested in the program here is their website. www.castingforrecovery.org
I will be going to a retreat at a really nice lodge on 2500 acres in Oregon. They teach you how to fly fish while you are there and it’s a place where breast cancer survivors can get together, share their experiences with cancer, and enjoy the outdoors and God’s green earth. I will be blogging about my experience at the retreat.
My latest surgery is healing nicely. It doesn’t hurt at all any more. It’s still pretty bruised looking, but it has gotten a lot better in the last few days.
Thank you for all your prayers.
Add comment April 15th, 2009
Today it has been exactly one year since my grandma passed away. She would have been 97 years old this year. Here is a copy of the eulogy I wrote and read at the funeral in Wisconsin.
This is the eulogy I read at my Grandmother’s funeral:
I am here today to tell you about my Grandma, Rowene. Rowene…. What a beautiful and unique name. My Grandma was a beautiful and unique woman. There is a poem by an author named Jenny Joseph’s that starts, “When I am old I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go….” My grandma was never much for purple, but her personality was definitely purple.
Some of my earliest memories of my grandmother are of her sitting at the sewing machine at my parent’s home sewing clothes for my sister and me. She was very much the quintessential grandma who sewed clothes, baked bread and sweets, canned fruit and pickles, and the meals she cooked were legendary. She had white hair and glasses and everyone called her grandma as long as I can remember, no matter who they were, because she was everyone’s grandma and mother.
When I was just a preschooler she came to visit us in Arizona with my Grandpa Orvan. My sister Tammy was in the first grade and my grandparents and I would walk to school every day in the afternoon to pick her up. Each of them would hold one of my hands as we walked. They would pull up with their arms and raise me up in the air and swing me back and forth and back and forth. I just giggled with joy. Every time I look at my daughter with her Nana and Papa, I am reminded of those special times with my grandparents.
Grandparents occupy a very unique position in our lives. They love us unconditionally. They don’t have to take care of us, and it’s not their job to raise us, so they are in a special position of being able to just appreciate us for who we are.
Unfortunately, we lost my grandfather when I was just 5 or 6 years old. He suffered with bone cancer and went home to be with his heavenly father in 1973. I would have liked to have known him longer, but I still feel I knew him even as small as I was. I still have many memories of him. Playing cards with him in his big chair. Taking a walk together as he strode along with his cane. Talking into his hearing aid while we sat in his lap. Every once in awhile I talk to him in my prayers.
My grandma loved to tell stories about us when we were small. She often told a story about me when I was just 5 or 6 years old. She was sitting at the sewing machine sewing clothes at my parents home in Arizona. I was sitting there with her talking her ear off as I often did when I was small. As most of you know, Phoenix is traditionally warm and sunny most of the year. Grandma used to come down to Phoenix with the rest of the Snowbirds to escape the wicked winters in Wisconsin and spend time with us, her grandchildren. Apparently, it had been raining for a few days in Phoenix, which is unusual, and grandma made the comment that she was going to go home if the rain didn’t clear up soon. Being a child, I of course took her literally and was very concerned. She said I got very serious, closed my big eyes and put my little hands together, and prayed hard to God, “Dear God, please make the rain go away so my grandma won’t go home.” Every time she told that story she would laugh and smile at me. The joy of a child’s innocent and pure belief in the power of prayer and a benevolent God.
Once when my grandma was still living in her little house on 5th street, Tammy and I were there to visit. My Uncle was still living there and he had an extra bed in his room that used to be my Dad’s bed. Since she had limited room, that is where we slept. We were still little kids, so we each slept with our head at opposite ends of the bed like you do with little kids. That night as we were going to bed my grandma sat and prayed with us. That night she taught me this prayer. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” To this day I still say that prayer in my head every night before I go to sleep. When I was pregnant with each of my 3 children I said the prayer for them too. My grandma was one of the first people to teach me about faith in God by her example. She was a good Christian woman and held a deep belief in Our Holy Father. She went to church faithfully on Sunday and was always there to volunteer when they needed help. She was an incredible example of what a Christian woman should be.
Grandma had a great sense of humor and was happy being the butt of many jokes. She was always ready for fun. My sister and I took dancing lessons when we were kids and we had yearly recitals. One year, we were riding in my Dad’s big cargo van, Old Yeller, on our way to one of our recitals. There was a bench seat in the back for us kids, and grandma used to sit in a lawn chair, smack dab in the middle of the van. This was in the days before people worried about seat belts, obviously. We were on our way to a friends house to pick him up to take him to our recital, and as we pulled in front of his house my Dad made a bit of a hard stop. We all watched as grandma’s lawn chair tipped over in slow motion with her in it. Every one of us gasped in fear, afraid that she would hit her head or hurt herself. She had to be at least 60 years old at the time. As we held our breath, she was quiet for a minute, then suddenly she just burst out laughing and we all joined in. She was always willing to see the funny side of things.
Grandma was feisty and tough. There was a story she used to tell us when we had trouble with other kids in school about her when she was a little girl in Wisconsin. In those days there were several grades all together in the same little school house with one teacher. Apparently, one of the large farm boys used to enjoy picking on grandma. She was a petite little thing, so I am sure he thought she was an easy target. Little did he know. One day she had apparently had it with this kid, when she went to walk past him and he tried to trip her. She got up and took her pencil and just started poking him in the arm with it over and over. Apparently, that was the last time he bothered her. Grandma always could take care of herself.
Grandma was smart and compassionate. Grandma had to quit school when she was just 14 because she became very ill with yellow jaundice and she never went back. Grandma was always there for other people when they were sick, giving birth, or dying to offer comfort and compassion. If things had been different she may have been a nurse. It was a profession that would have suited her well. Instead, she worked in the post office for 30 years. She knew everyone in town and they knew her. She was friendly and a hard worker.
Grandma even influenced the profession I chose to go into. I have a psychology degree and I am a certified teacher. I fully intended to get a teaching job one day. After I had children I just wasn’t comfortable leaving them to be raised by strangers, so I decided to start my own business out of my home. When I was about 20 years old my grandma bought me my very first cross stitch kit and she taught me how to cross stitch. Cross stitching is something I have enjoyed doing in my spare time for years. About two years ago, I decided to open a cross stitch supply store out of my home. We have been in business for two years now and we are going strong. I really love it. Thanks to grandma, I found something I really enjoy doing.
Here are just a few things I will remember about my grandma:
-her sense of humor-her old fashioned sayings-the smell of Dove soap-spending summers at her house when we were kids-playing Frisbee in front of her apartment with our cousins- playing post office on her stairs in her house when we were kids-walking to church on Sunday morning-learning how to sew and cross stitch with her-making fresh bread and jam in her apartment-her white hair-her laugh- and what a great grandma she really was.
My Grandma Rowene will be missed by every one. She obviously touched many lives by the size of this crowd. She lived a long, happy, mostly healthy life. In the last few years she grew frail and tired and she was ready to go home to be with her Heavenly Father. I am glad that she is happy, comfortable, with Grandpa, and at peace in heaven with God. This January I was diagnosed with stage III a breast cancer. Knowing that she is in heaven waiting for me makes the possibility of losing my battle with cancer some day less frightening. I know when my time comes she and my Grandpa will meet me hand in hand to take me home.
God’s Grace to you all!
Add comment April 11th, 2009
I am home from my 4th surgery since I was diagnosed with cancer. I am feeling okay. Tired and sore, but not bad. I had a very sweet nurse, and she was smart and humble enough to ask someone who is really good at putting IV’s in, to come a start one in my arm. It is so difficult to get an IV in my arm any more. Since I had lymph nodes removed from my right arm due to the spread of the cancer, they are not supposed to put any IV’s in that arm so they don’t take a chance of introducing infection. It has been over a year now since I was diagnosed, so the veins in my left arm are wore out and scarred from all the IV’s. It takes someone who is REALLY, REALLY good to get an IV started now. It is really one of the worst parts of surgery for me.
The IV nurse was a man and he said his poor wife has ovarian cancer. She has had it for 3 years and it is not curable. They just continue to treat you with more and more chemo and whatever else they have at their disposal until you finally lose the war. He said she has no hair, and is very weak and skinny. She only has two more treatments to go in this round. I felt terrible for him and for his wife, of course. There is ALWAYS some one worse off than you are. Count your blessing rather than you liabilities. It’s the only way to survive cancer. Attitude is more than half the battle.
We also got some other terrible news today. My husbands has a lot of family in Mena, AR. He actually grew up there. They had a bad tornado last night and it destroyed the town. His Grandmother’s house and one of his Aunt’s house was destroyed in the tornado. His grandmother, another aunt, and her husband were trapped in the car in Grandma’s garage. They were lucky and survived the storm there as it tore through the area. His other aunt (Barbie) survived in her basement with one of her sons as the tornado ripped through her home. They could all use some prayer. His Aunt Barbie has had a very rough road to hoe for several years now. (I know how she feels) Pray for strength in this difficult hour.
Add comment April 10th, 2009
We just received some bad news from my husbands family. There was a terrible tornado that ripped through Mena, AR where my husband has a lot of family. One of his aunts lost her home, his grandma lost a travel trailer and so did another aunt of his. Thank heaven, they are all alright. It sound like it was a near miss for the aunt that lost her home and his grandma and another aunt. They had all just barely made it to cover before the tornado struck.
I am having surgery tomorrow. I ask that you pray for my husbands family. Especially his aunt. She has had a difficult few years with several tragedies in her life. I know first hand what it is like to live through so much turmoil in a short amount of time. Having so many people praying for me helped me make it through. Please pray for me and my doctor as well. He is a great plastic surgeon and I am glad to have someone that is so experienced and skilled. However, the Great Healer is really in charge.
Add comment April 9th, 2009
It is just a few days now before my next surgery in reconstruction. Tomorrow is the last day of Spring break for my kids. It rained all week, so it was difficult to call it Spring. Today was nice, however, so we went to the zoo. We haven’t been there in several years. The kids enjoyed it and we got a lot of nice pictures with our new camera. They are growing so much. My oldest is going to be taller than me in just a few weeks. When did that happen.
I enjoyed having my chicks in the nest all week. They are growing so fast. Before you know it, they will be off to college, jobs, moving out, getting married and starting their own families with babies. It’s just so fast.
I am ready to get my next surgery over with. I always hate not being able to go to the pool at the gym for a few weeks while my incisions heal.
It’s late and I should wrap this up. Please pray for a safe surgery and quick recovery for me.
Add comment April 4th, 2009