Saturday, November 8, 2008

Slept All Day

My surgery went well and Doris waited for me in the hospital for 3 1/2 hours! She must have arrived just as I was going into surgery because I slept in the recovery room for 1 1/2 hours after a 1 1/2 hour surgery. Wow, your throat gets really dry and you have to cough a lot of stuff up after that.

I got in bed once I got home at 8:30pm and Aimee made me tea and brought me some applesauce. I barely got the tea down and popped my Vicoden (thanks to Lee, my mother-in-law, I didn't have to go to Longs for that on the way home) and slept until 3am when I finally ate the applesauce! Then I slept until 3:30pm when I got up and had Jason warm up some of the soup Doris made us...YUM! The kids already ate half of it before I could get to it. And there were only 2 slices left of the challah that Liz brought us but I enjoyed every bite. And Glenna's bringing us food on Monday and we hope it isn't too spicy. (Her family loves peppers! So I'm dropping the hint now to you all. I think peppers are good for bad cells but my family members have soft tummies.)

Still, I'm not totally sure that I'll get chemo on Monday since the surgeon told me that my oncologist wants the biopsy results in order to know what chemo to give me. And she probably won't have them by Monday. So we'll see what happens when we see her on Monday at 9am. Tomorrow I have 4 clients in a row from 1:30 to 5:30. I think I'll be ok for that but wondering...I just hope no one wants a hug!

Anyway, thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. I'm doing fine and recovering nicely. I so appreciated my surgeon for insisting on Dominican making the effort to get something delivered from San Jose in time yesterday so I could get the surgery yesterday instead of waiting until next week. It was perfect timing for me because I had such a great sleep the night before thinking I wasn't going to have surgery the next day!

The radioactive dye was injected in 4 places around the lump at 11am so that by 4pm, they could see which lymph node the breast drains into for the biopsy. Geoff held my hand during the injections at 11. I told him, "Don't you want to pull up a chair and sit down for this?" He told me no, because then he wouldn't be able to see what's going on! So as long as he keeps his joking to a minimum, I don't mind having him along. His hand is definitely more comforting to me than some nurse’s I don't even know.

Maybe I'll end up wanting him to hold my hand for the first chemo too... We'll see.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We're On Again!!!

My surgeon called me this morning to tell me that we could do both surgeries today. So here we go again.

This is why it's good:
I had a great sleep last night thinking I wasn't going in for surgery the next morning.
I had a wonderful walk this morning with Geoff in the beautiful, hot sun on WestCliff.
I had a good breakfast this morning, not worrying about fasting...doc said it was ok since it was at 7:30am.

So, I've got chicken noodle soup from Doris waiting for me when I get home.
I've got Doris picking me up from the hospital and bringing me home.
I've got Jason being brought home by his teacher after basketball practice.
I've got Aimee enjoyed by Joy and Rebecca after school.
I've got Liz bringing me challah.
I've got Geoff taking me to Dominican at 10:30am to get the dye injected and then he'll take me back home to return at 1 for the surgery prep, Sentinel Node biopsy and Port insertion at 3pm. Doris brings me home around 5pm.
And as I've learned to say from my rabbi, "G-d Willing" all of that will go as planned. And as I've learned from my mom which she learned from her mom (my grandma, may she rest in peace), men plan and G-d laughs.
This week has certainly been one of those experiences.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Again, Off Again

Today as I was leaving the house to go to work, at 5:30pm, my oncologist called to tell me that the port surgery was being postponed until next week and chemo is postponed until the following week so that the surgeon can do a sentinel node biopsy at the same time as the port surgery.

I'd had a very rough and anxious day with a migraine, running around, getting everything I would need to start chemo next week. All the veggies to make the mineral broth, the cleaning supplies to clean the house, the medications I needed to take before getting the chemo... Stopping at the hospital to register for tomorrow's surgery...getting poked again twice when they couldn't find a vein to get a blood sample...glad that I'll soon have a port...not sure whether to take exedrin for my headache and ending up taking valium that made me feel depressed and awfully tired and finally taking the imitrex for the migraine and finally feeling better...writing a list of questions for Geoff to ask the anesthesiologist because he was going to call while I was working and I wasn't sure yet if I could eat something for breakfast and what I could eat since my surgery wasn't until 3pm...worried, scared and feeling very vulnerable all day about what is going to happen to my body and how I will handle it all...

And then all of a sudden at the end of the day, at 5:30 as I'm about to leave the house to go see a couple of clients, nothing's happening until the following week!

The oncologist has a good idea though: she wants a sentinel node biopsy before I start chemo so she knows what's going on with the lymph nodes. After chemo, they maybe all cleaned out and then she won't know. Somehow that effects what kind of chemo she decides to give me and whether they take nodes when I finally get the surgery (which she's thinking is going to be a double mastectomy now that they found something on the other side too). If the nodes are negative, then that's good because they won't need to take out lymph nodes during surgery which gives me a chance to avoid lymphodema in the future.

Anyway, it's all such a roller-coaster on my emotions. I took off Thursday next week for the chemo. Now it's not until the following week. And it's very anxiety producing having this thing sitting inside my breast. I do work on visualization every night and every morning. I have a cd that my acupuncturist gave me that's very helpful with really great affirmations which I'll share with you sometime. And still, I have days where I get very nervous about what's going on in there and now I can't wait to get the chemo to stop whatever's going on in there.

So what I tend to do with all this stuff that I can't control (and believe me I would like to ring the oncologist's neck for not thinking of this earlier because I could have had all this done tomorrow had she thought of it this morning), but what I do to help myself through all these disappointments and setbacks is that I tend to believe that everything happens for a good reason and if I don't know what that reason is, then I just need to wait until the reason becomes more clear to me. Maybe it's a good thing because I get an earlier appointment at the hospital and won't have to fast all day. Maybe it's a good thing because it gives me more weeks to take all the immune-building herbs and supplements that I'm taking to shrink this thing and halt it's growth and spread. Maybe it's a good thing because now I won't be nauseous when my parents come to visit and we can go out for dinner. Maybe it's a good thing because now Geoff won't be busy doing something else while I'm needing him. Maybe it's a good thing because now I can go to that class that Dominican has on Monday where they give out free wigs. Maybe it's a good thing because I can go to their nutrition class on Tuesday. Maybe it's a good thing because it gives me more time to use this shampoo that my dentist told me about before the chemo strikes. Maybe it's a good thing because the timing now allows me to possibly go to the desert for winter break if I'm doing alright on the chemo...

I don't know. But this is sure a strange ride so far.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stressful Week

I've had a stressful week. Warning! If you only want to read positive stuff from me, re-read my last email to you! And if you want to send me email telling me to stay positive and upbeat, please don't. It just makes me feel worse. I am as positive as I can be and I don't want to believe that having negative feelings from time to time is going to effect my progress or outcome either way. I do want the freedom to express all of my feelings and that may sometimes mean the negative ones.

So this is why my week was stressful:

1. I was having second thoughts about my oncologist. Several things occurred:
- the MRI assisted biopsy changed from Friday to Monday due to the oncologist's office not being on the ball
- she told me why she thought I'd need a mastectomy over a lumpectomy in her view of things (which painted a horrible picture in my mind when the surgeon painted a positive picture of great response to chemo and then a lumpectomy)
- she overlooked my need to get a port put in so my surgeon had to scramble to find a time at Dominican last minute and now I've got an appointment at 3pm on Friday (which means I'm fasting all day -the anticipation of which is causing me more stress and was totally unnecessary had I been informed of the need for this port even a couple of weeks ago)

2. Because of the last minute need to put in a port at an inconvenient time when Geoff wouldn't be able to take me home from the hospital, I had to get over my uneasiness of asking Doris to take me home. She's the one I wanted to do that, but asking her to do one more thing for me was hard. (She's also going to my first chemo with me). Asking for support isn't easy for me and I'm going to be on a learning curve with it. But once I knew Doris would be willing to take me home, it settled my mind and made me feel better. (she's a friend I met through Chabad who is also a therapist and we share an office and she's gone through these things before just a couple years ago and so has been a tremendous gift to me right now)

3. Because I was nervous about having the 2nd biopsy, I didn't ask what it entailed and just had it in my mind it would be easier than the first since it was a smaller mass they were working on. Being in denial about things seems to be my way of managing my anxiety. Unfortunately, Geoff decided to go with me and it turned into a 3+ hour experience where he had to leave me at the breast center to get a mamogram after the biopsy (with teeth chattering from the stress) in order to pick up the kids from school in the rain. And please, we KNOW everyone and any one of you could have and would have loved to pick up the kids for us and I even had one friend get really angry with me for not calling her (which just added to my stress) but it's all a learning curve for us. We were just unprepared and didn't know it was going to be such a long time at the MRI center and next time we will be prepared with a list of all of your phone numbers or arrange something ahead of time. Since this is all new for us, it's hard for us to fathom what we need right now and prepare for it ahead of time. And we are so used to being there for our kids ourselves.

4. We had a consult with another ocologist which ended up being even more stressful because he gave us all the numbers: going thru chemo gives me a 25 - 35% chance of shrinkage vs a 5 - 10% chance of going the other way and growing instead. Plus he recommended a whole different treatment program and didn't understand why everyone else said I should need shrinkage in order to get a mastectomy and he'd recommend I get one first before chemo. My present oncologist agrees with the regimen that Stanford tumor board recommended which is that I get chemo first in order to have a better surgery (mastectomy). The bizarre part was that this other oncologist who painted such a different picture for us was trained at Stanford! So I walked away with the lesson that my oncologist is fine and what I care most about is the chemo room she has at her office which is really bright and comfortable. And truthfully, numbers and percentages mean nothing. If I lived by them, I'd be happy that breast cancer is one in eight which would give me great odds of not getting it!

Anyway, the following is good news to me though it might seem to you that it's bad: the biopsy of the right breast came back positive to those cells we don't want growing in our bodies. So I've got a mirror image of that bad growth in my body! But the left side is further along and the right side probably got eliminated with the biopsy. It only means that I may decide to eliminate the entire breast if I have to eliminate the left one. Because why be lopsided and deal with that? And it also means when it comes radiation time, I will have to get radiated on both sides. The reason it's good news is that it would be really hard for me to opt to get a double mastectomy if I knew that the right breast was healthy. So if it comes down to a mastectomy of the left one, it'll make the decision about the other one easier to make.

And don't talk to me about reconstruction! Forget it. Unnecessary surgery in my mind.

We went to chemo 101 at the Katz center today and I was able to choose a wig. They give out free ones. But in the meantime, I'm going to try a shampoo and lotion that was created in Germany for cancer patients. My dentist told me about it. Maybe I'll get to keep my hair. If not, though, I've got the wig now.

Another positive: there was a woman at the chemo 101 class that had gone through chemo treatment after her partial mastectomy. And she was struggling. It made me realize that I'm lucky to have chemo first because if it shrinks the tumor, I will have something motivating me to continue on through the difficult parts of it. If I had the tumor out first, I wouldn't have that motivation. So in that way, I'm very lucky!

My parents are coming to visit next week for a few days. It'll be the first time I see them since the diagnosis. I'm really looking forward to it and so are my kids.

Chemo on Monday!