Monday, May 31, 2010

“Momenti de Felicit√†”

“Momenti de Felicit√†”, translated, "Moments of Happiness".

I posted this picture that hangs in my house on my Facebook page the other day. I felt like I needed to stop for a, "moment of happiness".

Sometimes the things of life can just bog you down and you need to shift gears. I'm tired of thinking and talking about having had breast cancer, weekly expansion, ongoing appointments and treatment with possible side effects, reconstruction, blah, blah, blah.

I love bright and cheery colors and whimsical things that make me smile. I enjoy being surrounded by them. Lately, this part of my personality has been hiding a bit but she needs to emerge.

There emanates a joy and childlikeness from this painting that makes me feel free, light and safe, and warm under the rays of the sun. There's nothing complex here, only pure contentment and simplicity in this seemingly perfect feline world.

Unfortunately, we live in anything but a perfect world and so regularly I need to redirect my focus to see beyond the things that can bring me down. So, I hold on to my faith through the Lord Jesus Christ and ask to truly see from His perspective through the Son who brings me light each day and gives me His joy as I look to Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Be happy in your faith and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually; be unceasing in prayer; thank God in everything no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:1 - If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Chock-full of Doctors!"

Wow, what a day I had on Tuesday! It went from about 11:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. with doctors, with a little break time in between. I started out at the cosmetic surgeon's office for my continuing weekly expansion. I was so proud of myself last week being able to allow a fill of 100 cc's and figured, of course, this is what we'd do this week. Even though this is no fun, every time I have an expansion I know I'm that much closer to finishing this unpleasant process and I try to bear up under the pain.

However, this time the pain was getting bad at 60 cc's and unbelievable by the time we reached 85 cc's. I had to ask the doctor to stop when I thought my chest would explode and tears started coming to my eyes. The pain was so intense that each breath hurt and it was difficult to talk, as I seemed to get jabbed again and again. Muscles were spasming and nerves were being set off, shooting pain across my chest, through to my back and half way down my arm like I never felt before. I was back on pain medication that night just to try to get comfortable and to be able to sleep. Thankfully, the medicine helped for a while.

Strangely, the next day I actually felt pretty good, that is, until evening hit and more pain kicked in again. The week so far has left me quite uncomfortable and I can't seem to find relief. I took pain medication for two nights but it didn't help the second night and then I only felt more wiped out from drugs. So for now I'm continuing to shift this way and that in an attempt to try and find a bearable position but to no avail. Boy, I hope next week is a better week! It starts to really wear you out but I know this won't last forever and I'm still better than I was a few weeks ago. (Keep reminding yourself, Terry.)

Nobody tells you what expansion is really like before you start but I suppose no one could actually explain what you might go through. From what I understand there are those who have it worse than I do though and others that have very little problem at all. I hope I'll be able to have my expansion next week but I may need to take a break. I'm afraid to have it done now. I'll just have to see how I feel then. Lord, have mercy and HELP!!!

A couple hours later Jeff and I were off to my first visit with the oncologist to go over all my tests results in detail and to help us choose the best course regarding my ongoing treatment. After about and hour and forty minutes my head was spinning with an overload of information.

Though chemotherapy is an option, in my situation it still stands to give me only perhaps a 2% decrease of cancer recurrence. Going on hormone therapy with Tamoxifen is a given and on that alone, places me at an 11% risk of recurrence. It was also suggested because the cancer I had was a hormone receptor positive cancer, I would also be well advised to receive ovarian suppressing injections over the next five years along with the Tamoxifen. This will shut down my ovaries and the production of hormones and immediately throw me into menopause...YIKES! Obviously I'm praying the Lord would spare me the possible ill effects that can accompany menopause.

No definite decision was made Tuesday, though I felt myself leaning toward Tamoxifen plus ovarian suppression. Given all the data, chemotherapy appears to be an unnecessary evil with all of its possible and probable short and long term side effects, again offering perhaps only a 2% advantage when Tamoxifen, coupled with injections may help me achieve a risk rate a few points under 11%.

From there we went upstairs to see my breast surgeon, Dr. Schultz, to discuss what we went over with the oncologist. When I shared which treatment option I was most inclined to choose, he agreed that this was the very best course of action for all the same reasons that I had concluded given my type of cancer and the "low risk" range in which I fall and the one that he would recommend. I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Schultz and so this was very reassuring. I'll go six months until I have another visit with Dr. Schultz. I'll actually miss seeing him. He's such a superb doctor and just a wonderful man!

So, I believe after talking at tremendous length with my doctors, the place I have peace is the direction I will go although I'm sitting on it and continuing to pray for a few days. I'll make a follow-up appointment to see my oncologist in 2-3 weeks to let her know the direction we've chosen and then set up a schedule to begin this next process.

Even after all my bellyaching I know I'm coming along and making progress one step at a time and have to be patient. I have so much to be grateful for and I'm ecstatic it doesn't look like I'll need to go the chemotherapy route. What a blessing! And I get to keep my hair! Now, if I could only find someone to fix it for me every day so I wouldn't have to! Honestly though, I couldn't be happier that I have my own hair to take care of and the ability to do it, not to mention I won't have to puke and go through all the other fun stuff that can go along with chemo. Thank You, Lord.

Have a very safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Oncotype DX Test Results"

I experienced a particularly difficult day this week. At Dr. Lickstein's office I found myself teary-eyed and overwhelmed at this whole process both emotionally and physically. Reconstruction has been a very uncomfortable ordeal for me and expansion adds to my discomfort each week. I just start to feel a little bit better for a day or two and then it's time to do it again.

This past weekend, out of the blue came hot, searing, shooting pains across my chest and a good, solid night's sleep still eludes me. I toss and turn attempting to find a comfortable position free from pain and it's just not happening right now and I'm tired. Hey, but at least for the past ten days or so I've been able to get into bed and lay down rather than sleeping in my recliner. This is good!

I guess there are days like this when you've had cancer and go through all that you do. I know the whole "chemo" thing has been weighing heavily on my mind too as I have been awaiting the results. Traveling this journey is not always an easy one and on this day everything looked dark and I was weary. The pouring down rain and winds blowing outside didn't help either and I just wanted to stay in bed.

But Dr. Lickstein and one of his precious nurses, Jessica, were there with a listening ear and reassuring that it's okay to cry and normal but that all is going well, I'm making progress and that it will get better. I have such phenomenal doctors and caregivers!

I have to remind myself, albeit perhaps not at my pace, I am improving each week and try to remain upbeat, positive and grateful for all the blessings throughout it all. And there most definitely have been many blessings!

So, I'm continuing my weekly chest expansion and this week bravely agreed to increase the saline amount from 75 to 100 cc's to speed up this process a bit and just get through it. I still probably have several more saline injections to go so I'm trying to keep focused on the end result and to keep on moving forward. And, the sun did come out the next day and God is still on the throne and His grace sufficient. Thank You, Lord, for seeing me through the difficult days and the good!

Regarding the Oncotype DX test, Dr. Schultz called me last night to let me know that the tumor results were finally in.

I am in the “low risk” category for breast cancer recurrence with my score measured at 17. I am at the high end of low, with the low risk category ranging between 0-18. Oncotype DX testing overall ranges are from 0-100. So, at this point I have an 83% chance of cancer not recurring but there are certainly no guarantees made.

He said that the decision to have chemotherapy or not is more of a philosophical decision rather than a medical one and one which I would need to grapple with on my own to come to a decision since it would only slightly benefit me, if at all when combined with hormone therapy with Tamoxifen.

Dr. Schultz said there are those who want to have chemotherapy if they think it may decrease the likelihood of recurrence at all and who might beat themselves up later if they didn’t do it and wonder if their decision is the reason cancer returned. But there is only a possibility of a 1-2% advantage to having chemotherapy in my situation. So, rather than a 17% chance of recurrence, my recurrence rate may drop to between 15-16%...not significant and at least in my mind and Jeff's, not a valid reason to undergo something as radical as chemotherapy.

With a strong possibility of not having to undergo chemotherapy, this morning I literally felt like I could take a breath for the first time since diagnosis and then I broke down and cried in gratitude for having been brought through thus far in one piece by the hand of God and through those He has used to help hold me upright. Though I know I'm far from done and the decision is not absolute the findings were definitely pretty good news, thank God! You are the source of my strength!

Jeff and I are meeting with Oncologist, Dr. Rima Couzi on Tuesday, May 25th to go over the findings in more detail and are relying on her expertise and continuing to pray for the Lord's wisdom and guidance to help us make the final decision to have chemo or not. If chemotherapy was chosen I would probably begin within a month. I'll let you all know one way or the other.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Fill er Up With High Test"

I just got back a little while ago from
Dr. Lickstein's office for a 75 cc saline
injection to grow, what we will now call, "my ever-expanding new boob". He said everything looks good and reassured me all is well though I'm still having pain. Thankfully though, I've been off of the narcotics for pain and only on Ibuprofen for the past week...YEAH!!! So far I've had no additional pain since the injection and hopefully that will stick and I'll just keep making progress.

Since I've never been through this before I've really not known exactly what to expect. I suppose I've been overly optimistic and thought I'd be further along. Dr. Lickstein reminded me I'm just two weeks post surgery tomorrow and it takes time to heal after such a major surgery w/tissue expander and all the muscles involved and that each week will bring improvement. Thank you Dr. Lickstein. Patience has never been my strong suit.

He and his staff are really wonderful and give such great care and I feel better already. (And I'm not just saying that because I know you'll read this, Dr. Lickstein. I'm quite sincere and appreciate your compassion and expertise. Hey, by the way, I'm still waiting on a two for one offer...LOL!) I looked up your twin brother, David; you're both so adorable!

So, this was my big outing and adventure of the day (other than a big, iced caramel macchiato on the way home...YUM, I hadn't had one in two weeks and was going through withdrawal!) I'll go back to Dr. Lickstein in a week for another "fill-up" and continue the process until the size is right.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Post Surgery Update"

Here I am, eleven days post surgery, doing better than a week ago, though still wiped out and dealing with pain, both physical and emotional.

I find myself quite impatient and irritable with this long process already and its restrictions. I'm unable to lay down flat in our bed yet and I'm really tired and uncomfortable trying to sleep in the recliner and looking forward to my comfy bed...I hope, soon!

I'm waiting on the tumor results as to what type of cancer I had, rate of recurrence, when I'll begin hormone therapy and if I'll need to undergo chemotherapy. Hopefully I'll have those answers in a couple of weeks and will hear good news.

We're so grateful that my lymph nodes turned out to be clear and that I was spared the ordeal of having a bunch of them removed along with the associated pain and after effects.

I had my drain removed only one week after surgery, which is pretty quick and I'm so happy that's out! I'll see Dr. Lickstein, the plastic surgeon, on Tuesday for my second saline fill since surgery day to continue expansion for final breast reconstruction when we're ready to insert the permanent implant down the road. I'm a little apprehensive about my visit considering the amount of swelling and pain I still have and I'm not looking forward to adding to my discomfort with more expansion and it's effects. I'll have to talk to the doctor about all this.

Jeff's back to work tomorrow and I think he's ready though I'm not sure I am. I'm so glad he was able to be with me up until now. He's been a great help and has given me good care as well as taking care of household chores and tending to our "zoo".

Thanks for all the cards, flowers, calls, and most of all, prayers. Please keep them going up. 

That's all for now, folks. Got to keep it relatively short. I can't sit here too long.

Psalm 27:13-14 - I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!  (My hope and help are in You, Lord.)