Friday, August 21, 2009

Finally! We have my Oncologist, a Plan, and a Schedule

I got to meet my Oncologist today!! From the moment that we (Mom and I) entered the facility I knew we were in great hands. Even that lady at the desk that greets you with the 2000 pages of forms to fill out was delightful and answered questions with pleasure. ( I only had 2...) After my hospital stay, I thought I might have entered The Twilight Zone. They didn't even have that rude little window to slam or the clipboard with stickers you sign! From there I met Gayle who will be taking my blood for the next year. She's a 17 year survivor who doesn't shake hands because she hugs you instead and had to come out to meet Mom as well. Then we got to meet the nurse. She's was not my doctor's usual nurse (who had the day off) but very nice all the same.

Side story: My "real" nurse, Sharon, who had the day off probably already thinks I'm crazy because when she told me on Tuesday that the next available appointment was Monday the 24th, I cracked in half on the phone and bawled my eyes out instantaneously complete with the single mom story. See, I'm trying very hard not to miss any more work than I already have to and Monday is my return to work date. Well, she worked some miracle for the basket case on the phone (that's me) because she called the next day with a miracle appointment for this afternoon. Yeah, Sharon! You deserved the day off! Can't wait to meet you! I'm sure you're not as excited...

So, back to the real story...We have a plan! I got to meet my wonderful doc who is exactly what I needed and had told Mom I was looking for in my Oncologist. He's definitely older than me, but NOT at all "old". He's is up on all the latest research and advancements. He's analytical to the point that I want to interrupt every sentence and that means he's thorough. He also seems to have the patience of a saint. That's a requirement to work with me in this situation. If you know me, you know why. If you don't, it's because I can ask more questions than anyone you've ever met and want to understand everything completely. That frustrates many...But, once I have my questions answered, I make BIG decisions quickly. So, after a 3 hour appointment, I made all decisions in 4 minutes.

So, here goes: I am going to have 6 rounds of "normal" breast cancer chemo every three weeks. That's two drugs called Carboplatin and Taxotere. These are the barf and bald cocktail to be completed January 8th. They're also proven effective. Now, since I have this HER2 quite aggressive type of cancer (overachieving at behaving badly once more), I also get Herceptin at the same time. This is a miracle drug. It just happens to treat this super aggressive stuff with such effectiveness that it cuts my recurrence rate in 1/2 from chemo and surgery alone! I get it for a year every three weeks and it doesn't have the bald/barf side effects. How cool is that?? So, my aggressive type is really a blessing, kind of like this cancer is in general.

But, I'm also qualified to participate in a clinical trial for a 4th drug with even less side effects!! It only has one that truly affects me. There's no data on how it works with Stage 1 or 2. That's what we trial folks are for... But, in Stage 4 people it cuts tumor size by 25-50%. It's called Avastin. So, in other words, it could make my great numbers even better! Only 50% of those accepted will get it, but the study is not blind. So, if you don't get it, you still get everything you were going to get anyway and you know you're not getting it. No placebo. The only downside to it is that it, like Herceptin, will be for one year. But, with this one my final reconstruction surgery can't be preformed until 1-2 months after the treatment is done. That's the only bad side effect. That delays my "final product" from the plastic surgeon by about 5 months....October 2010-ish. Mom had a hard time with this. She just wants her daughter whole again. Oddly enough, I'm really not missing the girls that much. I still get to blow up the tissue expanders in the mean time. So, I'll have my normal size before then anyway. Besides, some other women did the same thing for me just a few short years ago to test the Herceptin. So, I get to help others whether I get the drug or not.

Now, I'm putting it in God's hands. If it will help me and I'm supposed to get it, I'll get it. He will see to it. If not, I get recreated by the plastic surgeon in the spring as planned. How is that a bad deal? There's no downside. (Remind me to tell you all of the pros and cons of having an unbelieveably HOT plastic surgeon some other time...)

So, like all things I do, I'm diving in head first in the hopes of receiving 4 bad-to-the-bone drugs at once. If not, I still get three. Plus, supposedly they have drugs now that can keep even me from barfing all the time. That's hard to believe. (I got sick 2 weeks ago from taking my multivitamin on an empty stomach.) I do have a lot of "driving the porcelain bus time" from in my younger stupid days of much too much alcohol. But, don't think that's exactly the same as on the job chemo training....I'll let you know if it helps.

One, last thing...they even met all of my "demands" without me brandishing any weapons at all. So, I got to tell them when I had mapped out the chemo dates around my work obligations for the next 6 months and they agreed to every one! You should have seen their faces when I pulled out the every 3 week schedule that I had created before I left work for surgery. I do my homework! It's already on my calendar there, now it's on the doctor's as well. We kick things off on Friday, September 25th. Just got to get through a little complete body CT scan and bone scan until then. It's been a truly great day.

Thank you, Jesus for my many, many blessings that you reveal to me on a daily basis. You have given me everything I need to get through this, and I am so very grateful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When we THINK our strength disappears

Today was a hard day. I wish I had an Outlook calendar for this journey so I could plan the bad days, and look forward to the good ones. It would be so much easier. Instead, the trauma hits you like a hurricane that the news guy never found on the Doppler radar. And, it's always a crisis in faith. It also happens when we think everything is in control and we've surrendered everything. (which for the record never actually is true...) We're just coasting along, God "fully" in control....Surrendered to Him? Check! It's all good. Not worried about the cancer because I have no doubts of complete and total healing. Turned over the baldness yesterday and even decided I would try to make it to the FC Singles Retreat that I got an email about today. Bald, yes, but so what?? I got wigs! If I'm not sick from treatment, I'm going. Doesn't mean I shopping for a man during this period (that'd be a tough sale...), but I am single and I've been dying to see the camp, and He's never been working harder on me. Then it all went wrong...

You see, Satan is so much smarter than we are. He knows where our weaknesses are. He can see the cracks in our faith and when we aren't looking, he plants things in our minds that create doubt, stress, trauma. All things that are so dangerous to living the life God has for us. We only need to crack the door a millimeter, and it's too late. For me that's always money. I know it. He knows it. Almost everyone I know knows it. So, I spent 4 hours of my day crying my eyes out over money I don't even need until spring. The problem isn't getting the medical bills paid for this surgery or keeping my house afloat now. I've been blessed with a great job, great parents and wonderful gifts from church that are making up those differences in my current finances. No problems there at all.

It's the fact that putting me back together, recreating the body I had until 2 weeks ago, one that has all of it's parts, puts me in a whole different % of disability at work. What single Mom can live on 67%?? It's one that will take a miracle to close the gap. So, I spent the day consumed with the belief that if I was ever going to have complete breasts again, I would have to sell my house first because I have quite a bit of equity. The market is great for that!!! (Extreme sarcasm) Just think through that tailspin for a moment....single woman, nippleless until she's homeless, broken never to be fixed or wanted again. That's a doozy of a pity party with a whole box of Kleenex.

IT'S ALSO A LIE! None of that is true. That's the enemy finding his only way into my relationship with God right now and blowing it wide open. He may be smarter than I am, but he's NOT stronger or smarter than my GOD. All it took to survive that attack was to turn my attention back to Him. I will be physically whole again (thanks to an incredible plastic surgeon), I will have either my current home or another one, and I will be wanted again. More than anything, I believe that this experience is mandatory for those things to be true. I will tell a victory story soon enough. Satan stole a few hours from me today, but he did not steal my strength. He can't. You see, Christ lives IN me. I already have the strength of Jesus right inside. The power that has already defeated him lives IN me. It's the remembering and claiming that strength that we forget to do. Thank you, Tracey Barnes for teaching me that over and over and over. It changed my thinking permanently about almost everything. Still tragically human, but with a much quicker recovery.

The other thing wrong with today's thoughts is this: "God never shows up early, and he's never late. He's always right on time." I heard that in a wonderful testimony of a woman of God who's now gone to see him in person. I wish I could remember her name. So, why in the world would I be worried about that now? You know what? I'm not. Tonight I'm just going to hand it over and rest in His mercy and grace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Look Good, Feel Better...Oh, and no more oozing either!

I had a great day for so many reasons today. I got my last drain removed this morning, so I am officially tube-free! No more nasty junk to measure and collect as all of my wounds are now officially on the mend for this portion of the process anyway. I can't begin to explain what that means to me for getting ready to head back to work next week. I've decided to go back on Monday even though that's only 2.5 weeks since the big day and probably a little before my docs would like. I can only lay around so long anyway and if I keep eating all of these wonderful meals from the fabulous people at church, I won't fit into anything but the PJ's and yoga pants that have been my complete wardrobe for the last 12 days. Do we ever have some good cooks at our church! Thanks again for all of the wonderful meals. I can't explain what that has meant.

Another big step happened for me today when I attended the Look Good,Feel Better seminar sponsored by the American Cancer Society. It's a great program that provides women going through cancer with make-up tips to disguise the look and effects of treatment. They also provide a great complimentary make-up bag with all kinds of donated products from so many manufacturers. It's really incredible how many people are involved in helping those dealing with this nasty disease. My favorite part about the make-up tips was the instruction on how to create your eyebrows properly once they fall out. Since, I seem to worry so much about the "big stuff" (that's complete sarcasm if you don't know me...if you do, you knew that already) it was a big thing to mark off the list. I mean what are you supposed to do? Just take a stab at where they used to be from memory? In the process, I learned how great my eyebrow lady is because they completely lined up to where I was supposed to draw them back once they go.

More importantly than anything else is the fact that I got to meet some wonderful women who are taking their own journey with cancer. No two of us has exactly the same kind. Mostly breast cancer, but not just that. Even those of us that have breast cancer have such different kinds and different treatments/surgeries. In a room like that, it's impossible to be focused on yourself when you get to meet others and hear their stories. I count this day among the ones that have been huge blessings since this diagnosis. Thank you, ladies. The time we shared really mattered to me. I have added each of you to my prayer list and promise to make that a regular thing. You've given me a lot of reassurance on the hair thing. I couldn't be more prepared, so I'm going to let go of that until it happens. Between now and then, there are no bad hair days.

Besides, Brayden is coming home tomorrow. I have missed him so badly since he's been at his Dad's. I'm glad they've had so much fun, but can't wait to give him a huge hug and kiss and know he's sleeping under the same roof. Life just isn't complete without him.

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