The Maple Hill Church of Christ has a breast cancer support group. It was started by a couple of ladies that went through breast cancer and it is open to all women who have or had breast cancer. It meets every third Monday night of the month. I have only been able to attend about five meetings in the last year and I am looking forward to trying be more involved. This month's meeting was the best so far. It was called, "The child within us." The 4 year old classes from our Mother's Day Out program sang a few songs for us ladies and presented us with a small gift of a bookmark they made.
This handsome little boy in the middle is John Derrick and he is MY handsome boy. He was so cute up there singing to us. He was quite excited that night. He got to go to his very first T-ball practice and then he got to sing to "the ladies who have cancer" They sang, Jesus Loves Me, The Pizza Hut song (that is what he is singing right now) and The Green Grass Grew All Around. I had my video camera with me and I managed to record the first song but managed not to record the rest of the night. (But that doesn't matter because I haven't figured out how to get stuff off the video camera to my computer yet.)
Exactly one year ago today, my life changed completely. I know that is such a cliche but those are the only words that can describe my life today. One year ago, I was happy just living a quiet life but that was not enough. One year ago, I woke up after spending a long weekend at the Opryland Hotel for the Lads to Leaders/Leaderette Convention. I was tired but Kevin closed the door to our bedroom and quietly said to me, "Mary Anne, I felt something last night." I touched my left breast and there it was, a hard lump. My heart stopped and I felt sick and I was scared. I took a deep breath and continued getting ready. I had kids to get to school and I was going to teach at Mother's Day Out. I just couldn't dwell on it right then. But I did, I thought about it all morning. I was distracted and everything I did was mechanical. I wasn't a good teacher that day. It was finally naptime and the kids were sleeping. I slipped out into the hallway and was talking to my good friend Tammy. I decided to tell her what I found. I knew I had a doctor's appointment in a couple of weeks but she told me to go and get it looked at. I did and after my first and only mammogram and biopsy, I found out that I had cancer.
I prayed hard for three weeks that that lump was just fatty tissue or a cyst. I prayed that it was nothing and I could go back living my quiet life. I have two kids and a husband who need me. I didn't have time to do this and I didn't want to have cancer. But God quietly told me no that I had to do this so my prayer changed. I prayed that God would be with me through this and to watch after my kids and husband and I will make it through and one day I can hold my grandchildren.
Before last year, I did not know anyone personally who had cancer or at least I didn't know that I knew people who had had cancer. To me, cancer was a terrible disease and it can kill. Chemo was something that was used to treat cancer and it made people's hair fall out and that is all I knew. I honestly thought that I could get this all over with in a few months but that wasn't the case. I am almost done. I had the surgeries, I had the chemo, I lost my hair and felt the tiredness and going through menopause. Now my hair is coming in quite nice and thick, I am getting energy back and I have new breasts : ). I am on oral medication that is meant to keep my cancer from coming back. Yes, I am almost done.
God has been so good to me. I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve but it is because of God that I am here today feeling good. He has blessed me with the most husbands, children, parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and most of all my church family. They sent me cards, gifts, and fed me and my family, cleaned my house but most of all, they PRAYED for me. Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I felt that peace that transcends all understanding because of all the prayers that were lifted up for me, a person who wanted to live a quiet life.
Over this past year, I have experience joy and contentment and sorrow. I have made new friends and grown closer to the friends that I have already had. I now have three new doctors one being a plastic surgeon (just wishing insurance would pay to have some belly fat removed, ha ha, just kidding) I have been to a doctor office more times in the past year then in my whole 34 years prior to this. I still have not been to a plain old doctor just specialists. I have had four separate surgeries over the last year and I am still amazed of how quickly you fall asleep when they give you that medicine in the IV and how completely unconscious you are during that time. I cut my hair all off last year and colored it pink. I had Kevin shave my hair after it started falling out. Now it is growing back in and I kind of like it short like this but Kevin and the kids want it long again. My children have been amazing this year. They have not been scared and have treated me as well as they could. Kevin was patiently taking care of me when the chemo was bad. I also learned that chemo is not easy but it is tolerable and I could keep going after the side effects wore off.
I would have never chosen this life for me. I hope that I don't have to do this again. I have a wonderful oncologist whom I trust and who seems to be doing all he can. I have faith in God that he will take care of me and lead me the paths that I need to take. I have wonderful family and friends that love me and I love them dearly. Thank you all.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
I had my implants put in yesterday. I am very glad that it is over with. My skin was still a little broken out so I went by Dr. Tierney's (my plastic surgeon) office first thing yesterday morning and he left the decision up to us if wanted to proceed with the surgery. He would have preferred that I was completely clear but I felt like I was as clear as I was going to get. I will have to start back on the medicine that made me break out in about a week. Dr. Raefsky's research nurse, Beth, felt like the folliculitis was caused by the initial starting of the medicine and hopefully when I start back, I won't break out again.
But I have my implants in AND I no longer have my port so it is official there will be no more chemo! I am pretty sore and wrapped up so I haven't got to admire them too much. I was told by a few nurses that Dr. Tierney does good work. I was impressed that he took the time to talk to me on Friday morning before surgery. He was quite busy that day with other surgeries.
The kids are at my parent's house again for the weekend. I am so thankful that they live nearby so they can take the kids so I can have a day to recover at home quietly. So right now, I am sore and a little tired. I got up this morning and moved to the recliner and have not gotten up except to brush my teeth and go to the bathroom.
Also, I have a wonderful church family who is still praying for me. Nobody should have to go through this alone.
So I have scheduled my exchange surgery for this Friday, March 26. Yipee!!! I have called my oncologist and I have permission to not take the lapatinib that was causing my skin to break out. Now I will take the antibiotic that I have to clear up my skin and hope for the best. Already my skin is looking better so I will keep hoping that it continues to clear up and when Dr. Tierney sees me on Friday, he is willing to do the surgery.
Yesterday (March 19) I had scheduled surgery to have my tissue expanders removed and have my implants put in. I was also going to have my port removed and have my ovaries removed.
My previous post talked about the pills that I was taking. The only major side effect that I had experienced was that my skin broke out in little red bumps all over my face, arms and chest. I told my oncologist about it and he gave my antibotic to clear it up but unfortunately I didn't start taking the medicine soon enough to clear up the rash. So when Dr. Tierney took one look at my chest, he did not want to do his part of the surgery because he feared that I might get an infection so we had to put his surgery for another day.
I did go ahead and get my ovaries removed since the rash was not on my stomach. That part of the surgery went well and I am at home right now recovering. I feel pretty good just sore where the incisions are.
I am hoping that my rash will clear up soon so I can get other surgery done. I am hoping that I can get it done before the end of March. Kevin had changed jobs at the beginning of the month and had to switch insurances. We had to pay for Cobra this month and was trying to get as much done as possible before we started a new deductible.
I went back to Dr. Raefsky yesterday for a quick check up and to get me started on the next part of my treatment for the clinical trial that I signed up for. I will be taking a drug called Laptinib. Laptinib is already FDA approved for women whose cancer has came back so know they are testing it on women who are going cancer the first time. This drug is used to combat the HER2 protein. I have to take SIX of these pills every morning on an empty stomach. As you can see by the pictures they are not small pills. I can take them an hour before breakfast or an hour after breakfast. After one morning, I have decided to take them an hour after breakfast. Taking SIX of these pills first thing when I wake up was not the best thing for my system.
On March 19th I will be having surgery again. I having two surgeries in at one time. First, I will be doing the exchange surgery. I will be getting rid of these rock hard tissue expanders and receiving my implants. Dr. Tierney will also remove my port that I used for receiving my chemo medication. The second part is I am having my ovaries removed. Dr. Cathy Deppen will be doing this part of my surgery. Dr. Raefsky recommended having my ovaries removed since my cancer was also estrogen and progestern fueled. Having my ovaries removed will put me into menopause and will give Dr. Raefsky better options for treatment.
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."to the one who seeks him; The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,(Lamentations 3:22-25)
So I had my PET scan done on Wednesday. It was not painful it was just a long process. I couldn't eat or drink anything for 6 hours prior to the scan and my scan was that afternoon so I ate a big breakfast and then was hungry for the rest of the day. I had to drink a contrast drink. I chose to drink what they offered there and it was lemonade and it tasted really good especially since I had nothing to drink all day. They had to give me an IV and give me a shot of glucose with a radioactive tracer in it. The tracer would go to any area where there was active cancer cells. I had to sit in a dimly lit room for an hour and then I got the scan which took about 20 minutes. Sitting in the dimly lit room was not too bad. It gave me some quiet time to spend in prayer which I really needed. The only problem was the contrast drink had caught up with me and I had to ask for a short break which I got and then came back to spend a few more minutes of quiet time before the scan. I managed to stay still for the scan which wasn't fun but I managed.
I got to go to see Dr. Raefsky today to get the results. He came in and first thing he told me that the scan was clear! Words cannot express how relieved I felt. I had been so nervous for a week since he called me the first time. I knew that God had a plan for me but I didn't know what that plan was and I just had to have faith in Him.
Dr. Raefsky still was not sure exactly what he saw on the CT scan. His thought was that maybe I had a few cancer cells in my spine that were too small for the bone scan that I had this summer to pick up. The aggressive chemo that I went through took cancer cells and now my bones are healing. I liken it to have scar tissue on my spine.
I asked for prayers for the results of this scan and I got prayers. Prayers were lifted up on my behalf literally all over the world. The missionaries that the Maple Hill church supports were praying for me, my friends were praying, the elders were praying and the church was praying. God answers those prayers. It has been a tough year that I wish that I did not have to go through but that was God's plan for me. I have learned so much. Things that I have known for a long time but I needed a refresher course. I know the power of prayers but I needed to see God's work more clearly. I know that I can put my trust in God but I needed to learn to let go more and let God handle my problems. I needed to know that God has a plan for me.
Thank you everyone who prayed for me. Please keep praying and pray for everyone else who is battling cancer because every prayer helps.
First, I must say that I have been feeling great. I didn't realize how tiring the chemo was because now that I have not had chemo in three weeks, I have had more energy, my taste has come back and my skin is clearing up. I am so happy to be over chemo. Second, I have scheduled my reconstruction surgery and I will have that done on March 19!
I had my CT scan this past Tuesday. I learned a valuable lesson, don't ever drink the contrast drink that is offered at the doctor's office but drink the contrast drink that they offer at the imaging office. It tastes like orange Tang and there is a lot less to drink then the other contrast drink.
The good news about the CT scan was that the place on my liver had not changed so my doctor was confident that it was a harmless cyst and nothing to worry about. The bad news was that he saw something on my spine that he doesn't understand. He couldn't tell me much about what he saw. I had had a bone scan done this past summer and it was clean. I have had 16 rounds of chemo so no cancer should have grown there. He is concerned so he has ordered a PET scan. I will have that done next Wednesday and then I go see him about the result on Thursday.
I will admit that I am a little upset. I have been feeling so good and then I get this call and I now I feel like the wind was knock out of my sails (sorry for the cliche but that is how I feel) Now I have to wait and how I hate waiting. Waiting just makes me think and when I start thinking, I think of the worse sometimes. So please keep me in your prayers that this is nothing and I can continue feeling good.
That's what Dr. Rafesky told me when I went in for my first post chemo visit this past Monday. I don't have to go back and see. him for 6 weeks. For the next 6 weeks, I don't plan to go to any farther then Mt. Juliet if I can help it.
The visit went well. He just checked me over and talked about some of the things that I will be doing. I will get another CT scan on February 2 just as a precaution and he was not too concerned about finding anything. He talked about some hormonal therapy that he will want me to do in the future. That will involve some oral medication. Also, because of the trial that I signed up for, I will be taking a drug called lapitnib which is an oral drug. I won't start that till I see him next time.
The chemo was very hard on my skin. My face, arms and chest have broken out something awful. That was the first thing he noticed when he came into the room. He gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. I hope that with the antibiotic and me switching to soap and laundry detergent for sensitive skin, it will clear up soon.
Monday was so wonderful not having to go and get chemo. I felt so good. The kids are happy that I am not getting chemo also. Even though they have been so good during these past months, I knew it had bothered them to see mommy tired or not feeling good. Things will start getting back to a better routine around here and I will feel like doing more. I will be going back to teaching at Mother's Day Out next week and I know John Derrick will be glad about that. I have to lose the weight that I gained during chemo and I will be glad about that. Now if I can just start sleeping better at night, things will be good.
I am finished!! Enough said! (Besides the fact that Kevin took me to my final treatment and we went out to eat a Red Lobster for lunch as a mini celebration) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods (Psalms 95:1-3)
...I will trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; In your name I will hope, for your name is good. (Psalm 52:8-9)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)
I have been very behind in blogging about my treatments. I finished treatment # 11 yesterday so I have only ONE MORE TREATMENT TO GO!! (Can you tell that I am a little excited?) I am still feeling good. The side effects that I experience are very minor and don't affect my everyday activities.
We had a very merry Christmas this year. I am very thankful that my treatments didn't interfer with the time I spend with my family. Christmas Eve was spent at my parents house with my brothers and their families. I was thankful that my younger brother Lane and his wife Kristen and daughter Josie were able to drive up from Houston to be with us. I was sad that my sister-in-law, Penny, had thryoid surgery just a few days before Christmas Eve. She didn't get out of the hospital till Christmas Eve so she had to stay at home and rest (which she needed to do anyway). My older brother, Marty, did come and bring his kids, Emilynne, Nathaniel and Susannah. Christmas morning was spent at home and we ate Christmas dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's home with the extended family where we had a fun Dirty Santa exchange. Kevin and I along with Lane and Kristen went to the Titans game Christmas night where we were very cold and the Titans lost.
We spent New Year's Eve at home and I made a pot of homemade chili and attempted homemade cinnamon rolls which turned out delicious. On New Years Day we drove to Memphis to spend the weekend with some of our dear friends, Jeremy and Laura Tolleson and their son Bradley. Kevin and Jeremy went to the Liberty Bowl to see the Arkansas Razorback play. They turned into ice cubes and Arkansas won in overtime. Laura and I took the kids to a nice warm movie theater were we saw The Chipmunks, the Squeakquel.
A special thank you to Tammy Robertson who took me to my treatment, Monday December 21. She is a very special friend who has wanted to do something but she works at Mother's Day Out on Mondays and Thursday. Since school was out, I asked if she could take me and she did. We enjoyed our time even together. Thank you to Nicole Brashear who took me to my treatment yesterday and thank you to Jenny Leech who brought over supper yesterday.
I know I left a day out. On Monday December 28, my dad took his turn to take me to the doctor. He got to do a little extra because I had to see my breast surgeon Dr. Lawson that morning. My appointment with her was at 9:45 downtown Nashville at Baptist and my treatment was at 1:00 in Hermitage at Summit. We planned on doing lunch together in between. Well I got done with Dr. Lawson fairly quickly and we had a some time to kill before lunch and my treatment so he drove me around Nashville. He showed me the homes that lived in as a boy. He drove me by the schools that he went to and told me the places that he remembered going to. We also drove by one of the houses that lived in before we moved to Lebanon and drove by the house my mom lived in as a girl. I wished that I had my camera with me because I want pictures of those houses. I also wish I could see the insides of those houses. I was very fascinated by this history lesson. We went to lunch at Paneras in Hermitage and then off to the doctor. They were busy because of the holidays so my dad was not able to come back and stay with me to keep me company but he waited in the waiting room and got some studying done. I really enjoyed and appreciated the time I spent with him that day.
Thank you for keeping me in your prayers. Remember to also pray for others who are battling cancer even if you don't know who they are because there are a lot of people who need those prayers.