Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finally the Fog is Lifting

It is amazing what a little prayer can accomplish. Yesterday was a hard day. I had been fighting fatigue for five days. I was getting a little discouraged because I did not want to spend the next two months trying to keep my eyes open. I do have a family and life. But I know many specific prayers were lifted up yesterday on my behalf and God answered. I have woke up this morning feeling MUCH better!

Last night my parents came over with dinner from Cracker Barrel. I had chicken and dumplings and they were soooooo good. I did not eat any real vegetables except hashbrown casserole and macaroni and cheese but the chicken was wonderful. By the time they came over, I was starting to feel better. They ate with me and the kids and then cleaned up and helped get John Derrick ready for bed. They left around 7:00 and I had a movie going in the DVD player. I fell asleep watching the movie with John Derrick. I woke up when the movie went off and then he watched a couple more cartoons while I dozed some more and then I sent him to bed. When he finally went to sleep (thank goodness Faith just goes to her room and goes to sleep), I climbed in my bed and watched some more TV. It took me a little while to go to sleep and I woke up quit a bit all at night but when I woke up this morning to the sounds of hungry children playing in the background, I felt rested.

I probably won't try to do too much today. I think I will try to enjoy this peaceful feeling. Kevin will be home this afternoon and I know he will be glad to have a wife who is looking and feeling better. Someone is bringing supper over tonight and I look forward to that. Hopefully, I will feel good enough to go to church tonight.

So this has been a learning experience for me. I know now not to plan to do anything for at least 5-6 days after chemo. Chicken is really good. I should plan for someone to maybe come and get a child or two for a couple of hours during the day. Thank goodness school does start soon. Kevin should also plan on not leaving Monday night for work. I can do this and will do this and it will be over soon!

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It is the Tuesday after my first chemo treatment. I have never been so tired. My feel like I am in some sort of fog and just cannot seem to get out of it. I have not been sick which is a blessing but I can't seem to get going. All I want to to is just stare mindlessly at the TV and not think. The problem is that all that seems to be on right now is Spongebob Squarepants. I'm afraid if I don't start watching something with a little intelligence, I might lose all my brain cells.

So that is my complaining for now. I am just so tired. I hope this passes soon. I don't care so much about my house being clean, I worry about the kids. I am thankful Faith is old enough to understand that I don't feel good but she is going to start school soon and I want for her year to start out right. John Derrick has been good but he is only 4 and can't do all for himself. I do feel guilty about him sitting and watching TV all day but that is all I feel up to. I do think that tomorrow, I will take advantage of friends and send him out to play with his friend.

I know this will pass. Kevin is had to go to Kentucky for work and he will be back tomorrow. I will feel better soon. I only have 3 more treatments to go.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two Days Later

It is the Saturday after my first chemo treatment. I am exhausted. I have not been sick yet. I woke up this morning a little nauseated but Kevin got up and fixed me some toast and gave me my nausea medicine. After I ate a little and took my medicine I felt better but now I am just tired. Mom and Dad took the kids to their lake house last night and will have them all day so I can have time to just rest. I am hoping by tomorrow that I get some energy back so I can be good to go by Monday.

All seems to be going well except the lack of energy. I have been able to eat but it hard to find something that I want to eat. I think I need to get Kevin to go get me some chicken noodle soup and potatoes to eat. Yesterday, I had to go back to the doctor for a shot that will help build my white blood count. The main side effects will be that I might feel achy. I have felt fine so far but if I do feel achy, I can take some Tylenol.

So I am going to try to do nothing today. I will probably get out of bed and take a shower and then move myself to the couch and watch TV all day. Hopefully by the time the kids get home this evening I will be rested or else lucky Kevin will be the one who will have to get the kids showered and to bed while I sleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Chemo is Done!

Today was my first chemo treatment. I have been very calm all week about this. I was a little scared of what it would be like but I was not in a panic. I actually had a fairly good night sleep on Wednesday night and woke up in plenty of time to get ready and have a little breakfast.

Kevin took me this morning. Faith spent the night at a friend's house and we had to drop John Derrick off at his friend's house. We got to the doctor's office five minutes late but we had to wait of course. I had to be weighed and have my blood pressure checked and a finger prick. I then met with Dr. Raefsky and he did a quick check and explained what was going to happen today. He told me that the bone scan and CT scan came back clean. They did see a tiny spot on my liver but he told me that it is probably a cyst and that they were quit common. He was not too worried about the spot and I would have another CT scan in about 6 months. After he left, a nurse came in to explain the medicines and the side effects.

I went to the treatment room after that. The treatment room is a large room filled with "recliners" I picked a recliner and waited. I had decided to have the genetic testing done to see if I carry the gene for breast cancer. The nurse took my blood for that first. Then I was hooked up to the IV. All of this was done using the port that was put in a couple of weeks ago. They first put in some anti-nausea medicine in first and then the chemo drugs. The first chemo drug the nurse nicknamed "the red devil" because it is red and pretty powerful. It could not be put in through the pump. She had to manually put it in me using a large syring. The second chemo drug was put in using the pump.

I was given plenty of medication for the nausea so hopefully I won't be too sick. I will experience fatigue and my hair will come out. The hair loss probably won't start happening for a few weeks. My white blood count will go down at times and I will have to be careful not to be around sick people. Tomorrow I have to go back and get a shot that will help my bone marrow to build itself back up. I also go back August 3rd to check my white blood count.

As I said, it was easier then I thought today. I met another lady who was getting her last chemo treatment. As we were talking, I found out that she teaches at Castle Heights Upper Elementary which is the 5th & 6th grades of the Lebanon Special School District (LSSD). Faith goes to Coles Ferry Elementary which is also part of LSSD. She had a real good attitude and looked great. We talked that last part of my treatment which made the time go by really quick. I was out of there by 1:00 and Kevin and I went out for lunch and then did a little shopping. We picked of John Derrick and came home and now I am sitting here typing this.

I am started to get a little tired right now. It is 5:30 and I think I will get up and put on my PJ's and sit here on the couch. Since Kevin and I had a late lunch, we are not too hungry. He left to go pick up a pizza for the kids to eat. Faith is back from her friend's house and she is tired a little sunburnt because she got to go swimming today. John Derrick is tired from playing so hopefully they will both go to bed without a fight.

Think you for all your prayers. I had such a peace about today because I knew prayers were being answered. But, I have one chemo treatment done and just 3 more to go!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Look Good...Feel Better

This morning I went to a program put on by the American Cancer Society called Look Good...Feel Better. This is for women going through chemo helping them to feel better but looking good. Each lady was presented with a bag full of make up for their use. All different companies donated make up and skin care products for this program. It was good make up also such as Clinque, Avon, Physicians Formula, Merle Norman and others. Here is a picture of what was in my bag
It was a really neat program and I am glad that I went. I went to the new Vanderbilt Medical Plaza at the old 100 Oaks Mall location in Nashville. This was the first time that they had done the program at this location and they were very excited to do this for us ladies. They had water and tea and cookies and they brought in lunch for us which was an unexpected surprise.

I think the sweetest thing that happened today was when a mom and her 10 year old twin daughters came in to the program. The mom had already started her chemo and had already lost all her hair. The girls were so happy to be there with their mom and you could tell that they loved her very much. As they were going through her make up, one of the girls said, "Mom you don't need any make up. You are already beautiful." That was so special and it brought tears to my eyes. I wish the best for this family.

I still can't say enough of how wonderful it is to have friends and to go to a church with a breast cancer support group. One of the ladies there today commented how wonderful it was to have other women to talk to because she had no one to talk to except the pychologist at her doctor's office. While my friends don't know what it is to experience cancer and I hope they never do, they are the main reason why I am coping through this period of my life. They have prayed for me and helped me in so many ways. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Hat Shower

God has blessed me with wonderful friends. I don't deserve such good friends but I have them and I am so thankful for these friends. None of these friends have been through breast cancer but they listen to me as I ramble on about things they haven't gone through. Sometimes I feel like I am always talking about me and what I am going through but it helps me so much to talk. My friends have given me the courage to face this. I will never know how anyone can go through cancer without having God and church family to lean on.

Danielle Gray threw me a hat shower tonight. My friends and my family gave me all sorts of turbans and scarfs and bands and bow for me to wear while I am going through chemo. Everything is so beautiful and while I don't want to lose my hair, my head is going to look good.

I don't want to wear a wig. I may change my mind but I just don't want a wig. I am a stay at home mom. I don't have a job outside my home where I need to make myself look professional so I don't feel the need to wear a wig. Plus I don't want to look like I am wearing a wig. There are so many different types of wigs and I can't afford nor do I want to spend the money to buy an expensive wig and my insurance won't pay for a wig.

Thank you everyone for my turbans and scarfs and such. They are beautiful.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Adventure in Scanning

I learned something today. Vanilla flavored Barium Sulfate contrast drink does NOT taste good even if there is a picture of a vanilla milkshake on the the label. Today, I had a CT scan and a bone scan. For the CT scan, they gave me two rather large bottles of a contrast drink and told me to start drinking one bottle two hours before the scan and the other an hour before. I dutifully started drinking the first at 6:30 this morning. After the first sip, I knew it was not going to go down easily. At 7:30 I had not gotten a fourth of it down. I went to the imagining place and they gave me some ice to pour the drink over and that didn't help much. I even had water to chase it down with and that only helped some. I managed to get 3/4 of the FIRST bottle down when they had pity on me and told me I had enough and they could go ahead with the CT scan.

I learned something else today also. (By the way, if you don't like hearing about needles and veins, you might want to skip this paragraph) My veins did not want to cooperate with the techs. I needed an IV to inject the solution for the Bone Scan and the CT scan. The Bone Scan tech got the first shot at my veins. He had to poke me twice to get the IV in. When he got the IV in, he left it there for the CT tech. Something happened between the injection of the Bone scan stuff and the injection of the CT scan stuff because when she started the solution for the CT scan, it started burning and she had to stop and redo the IV. She could not find a vein that wanted to do right. She poked me at least 4 times and then she had to call someone else in to help her. That lady had to try twice and the vein she got to work was in my hand and it really hurt when she was putting the needle in but she got it to work and we were able to finish the scan. Fortunately, that was all the poking they needed to do for the day. They did the best they could but my arm is fairly sore from them finding the veins.

The scans were painless and quick. The doctor ordered them as a precaution and I hope nothing shows up that needs to be addressed.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Friday, July 17, 2009

Getting a Little Closer

I have less then a week till my chemo starts. I have enjoyed this week immensely even though, I have not done much of anything. The kids and I have stayed home most of the week. Thursday, we got out and went to the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro. We had a lot of fun.

Today, I had a visit with my plastic surgeon. Kevin was in Memphis for training so I asked Tammy Robertson to ride with me. We had a good time. The visit was short and since it was early in the morning, we went out for breakfast after we left. I am glad that she was able to come with me. I have been around the kids for too long and I enjoyed having some "girl talk"

On Monday, I have to go in for a CT Scan and Bone Scan. It is just precautionary. I originally scheduled to go to Summit for the scans and was going to have to be there at 7:15 in the morning. Fortunately, Summit Imaging in LEBANON called and asked if it was okay to do them in Lebanon and I said yes!!!! This will make my morning a bit easier. So let's pray that the scan don't show any other problems anywhere else in my body.

Mrs. Majorie Hoffman from church gave me a zucchini on Wednesday night. I have just finished making 12 chocolate chip zucchini muffins, 2 loafs of spiced zucchini bread, and a chocolate chip bundt zucchini cake. All from one zucchini. My house smells yummy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Date is Set

Today I went back to the oncologist office. They wanted me to meet with the psycologist for an introduction visit. We had a nice little chat and that was about it. I am free to meet with her whenever I need to.

I also had the chance to schedule my first treatment date. I was able to talk to Dr. Raefsky's research nurse and she answered a few questions that I had about the treatment options that were presented to me. I will start my chemo on July 23. I also decided to enter the study trial that was presented to me. This means I will get 4 chemo treatments, one every 3 weeks. These will be done by October. To be part of the study, they will send my tissue from my original surgery to Milan to find out if I meet the criteria for the study. If I meet the criteria, I will be put in one of 4 different treatments. I won't know which treatment plan till they tell me.

I still have a long way to go to be over the treatment but the worse will be over by October. I was told that they have many ways to manage the side effects of chemo so while it will be bad, it shouldn't be unbearable and it is only 4 treatments and they are spread out. It will be over soon and I will have a new normal.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Need to Find the Island

I have had a few procedures done these past two days. I just bringing myself a few steps closer to having chemo started.

Yesterday I had a port put in my body. The port is an implantable device that will be used so I won't have to have an IV each time I go in for treatment. I was completely unprepared for this procedure yesterday. No one really told me what to expect. All I was told was that I needed to get the port in like it was no big deal. I guess I should have gotten the hint when I was told that it was going to be done at the Outpatient center at Summit Medical center and I when I was told not to eat or drink after midnight. I was told to be there at 8:00 but did not know that the procedure was not going to be done till 10:00. The waiting was not too bad. I got a room and was able to watch TV. The "specialist" (that is what he called himself but I think he was some kind of nurse) came and described what they were going to do which did not sound too fun. I won't tell you because it is not for the faint hearted. I'll just say the port is in my chest and they had to use a vein from my neck to know exactly where to put it. Well, he took me away to the very cold procedure room. I was sedated instead of being put to sleep but I fell asleep anyway. I only woke up once when they were poking something in me. My head was covered so I didn't see anything. Next thing I knew, I was back in my room in order to wake up. I think the whole procedure lasted about an hour.

I woke up feeling really good. Kevin and I talked and laughed and planned on eating a late lunch together as soon as they let me go. Unfortunately, I did not have the greatest nurse that afternoon. She did her job but she just didn't seem confident about anything. She came in shortly before I was going to be released and gave me a few instructions of how to take care of the port. She told me to expect some swelling and I needed to check back with my doctor to make sure that there were no problems. She told me not to get it wet while it was healing but didn't tell me how to keep it from getting wet, she just told me that the bandages that were on there would not hold up in a shower and didn't give me any more bandages. She took my IV out and did not do a good job because it hurt. While she was talking, all the pain meds that they had given me wore off and everything started hurting at once. The bandage on my neck was pulling my skin so she changed it but wasn't too sure what she was doing and then she seemed offended that I asked for something for the pain. I was just a little annoyed because the day had been too long and I didn't feel good.

It was 4:00 when Kevin and I got home that afternoon. I had not eaten all day. Kevin went and got something while I was gone but that was around 10:00. We ordered a meal from Cracker Barrel and got the kids and went home. I got supper in bed and then I spent the rest of the evening going to sleep and waking up and then going a sleep again. I was lucky I had pain meds from my last surgery because I was really sore.

Today I had a MUGA scan done. I had looked this up on the internet and it did not sound too pleasant but it was very EASY! This was done at Centennial Heart at Summit. They took my blood, injected something in it, I had to wait about 30 minutes, then they put the blood back in me and then I laid on a table for 16 minutes while this camera took a picture of how my heart pumped. The nurses were super nice and it was almost a pleasant experience. The only strange part of the day was when I walked in the waiting room (Kevin was with me today also) and there were only older men waiting. One man commented that we looked too young to be at this doctor. I agreed with him. We got done early so Kevin and I had a late lunch at IHOP by ourselves.

Now about that island. If you watch TV, you might know what island that I am talking about. This island has some type of magical powers where people are healed from diseases and injuries. The island is from ABC's Lost. I commented about the island to Kevin because no matter how many times Sayid was beaten up, he just got up and acted like nothing happened. Ben had surgery on his spine to remove cancer and just a few days later, he was traipsing across the island. Jack had his appendix taken out on a beach and less then an hour later he was organizing a search party. I watch the show and yes I know it is TV and it is not real but I wondered how they got all the energy to walk all over the island. This summer has been a roller coaster. I had major surgery and spent 3 weeks getting over the pain and then had another surgery and spent another 2 weeks getting over the pain and just when I was feeling really good, I had this port put in and it knocked me back down. If I was on the island, I would have felt better less then a day later and I could have had a more normal summer.

I am just kidding about all that. In fact, I am feeling much better today. All of this will be over in a few months and I will be fine.

1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oncologist Visit and Various Other Things

First, I want to apologize of the length of this post. I got a lot of information yesterday and I like to be able to write it down and see it. Plus, I think I have the tendency to share too much information and start rambling. If you get bored, you can read what you want. I understand.

Yesterday (Wednesday, July 1st) I had my first visit with the oncologist. My oncologist is Dr. Eric Raefsky. You can read about him here. He is apparently one of the best oncologists in Tennessee. There are two ladies at church who saw him and really liked him. My dad went with me to this appointment and while sitting in the waiting room, a gentleman who knew my dad commented on how good of a doctor Dr. Raefsky is. I am quite surprised that I was able to get him as my oncologist but it is definitely nice to know that I can trust his opinions.

Here is the information about my cancer. I have Stage IIA cancer. This means that the tumor was less then 2 cm (mine was 1.5 cm) and I had 1 lymph node that had cancer. It was a high grade cancer and I tested positive for HER2 receptors and Estrogen and Progesteron receptors. To read about the stages of breast cancer, you can click here. To read about HER2 click here and to read about ER/PR click here. None is of this is great news but it is not bad news either. Knowing all this helped Dr. Raefsky plan my treatment.

He basically gave me three options of treatment. There was a lot of information that he gave me and when I got home I had to remember everything he said and make sense of it. This is what I understood from him and when I go back to finalize my treatment, I will make sure that I understood everything he told me. First, if I did absolutely nothing else, if I said, I was done, I would have a 60% chance of the cancer not coming back. Having chemo and treatments will raise that percentage and that is what I plan to do.

My first option consists of 4 chemo treatment with the drug Taxel, one done every 3 weeks. With the chemo, I would also be given Herceptin. Herceptin is given through an IV and I would get Herceptin every week for 12 weeks. So if I understood this correctly. I would get Herceptin every week and on every 3rd week, I would get the chemo drug and I would be done in 12 weeks. Dr. Raefsky told me that this was the "old school" way of treating this cancer and it has very good results.

The second option, Dr. Raefsky did not have a lot to say except that it works just as good as the first option and it is a newer way of treatment. This treatment would consist of 6 doses of 2 chemo drugs, Cytoxan Adriamycin and Taxotere Carboplatin. These would be given every 2 to 3 weeks.

The third option was to be part of a study. The study was looking at the drug Tykerb. Tykerb is an oral medication that has been around for awhile to treat women whose cancer has come back but they want to see how it works with first time cancer patients. If I took part of the study, I would be given the 4 chemo treatments of Taxel. Then I would be put into one of 4 different groups. The 4 groups are Herceptin alone, Tykerb alone or one of 2 different combinations of Herceptin and Tykerb. This treatment would last a year.

I think I will probably go with the first option. I would be done in 12 weeks and hopefully with good results. The study sounds interesting but it would last a year. I wouldn't have to go to the doctor's office to get the treatments unless I was put in the group of Herceptin only and then I would have to go once every 3 weeks for a year. I am just ready to do and get it over with.

Monday, I go to have a port put in. The Port will be used so I will not have to have an IV put in every week. Tuesday, I will have a MUGA scan done. This scans how my heart pumps. Herceptin can damage the heart (a very rare side effect but yet a side effect). They will monitor my heart so if they need to decrease the dosage, they can. Wednesday, they want me to meet with the psycologist just in case I need psychological help during the treatement. I will inform them of my decsion and will get started in the next couple of weeks.

Today, I went and saw Dr. Tierney, my plastic surgeon. These are my "fun" appointments because he is not diagnoising me with some disease. He is just making me look better. The tissue expanders that are in me now need to be filled so expand the skin and tissue and get my body ready for the implants and today was my first fill. That was a strange sensation because first I have no feeling in my breast so I didn't feel the needle that he used but it was weird to feel the saline being put in. He will be working around my chemo treatments and I don't get the implants till I am done with chemo. So we figured that we can get the implants probably in December if all goes well. What a fun Christmas present.