Monday, April 29, 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Bras

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived on a beautiful culdesac with a small forest in her backyard.  She had breast cancer and lost her brown hair during chemotherapy. The following Spring her hair started growing back but was blond and curly, so her family called her Goldilocks.
One day she went to the hospital to remove the wicked cancer of the breast. When she awoke she was given a surgical bra to support her broken boob. She was instructed to wear it 23.75 hours per day. It was very scratchy and the front Velcro closure poked her delicate skin.
The next day Goldilocks remove the surgical bra to check out her new body. She noticed the scratches on her skin from the Velcro so she decided to wear a new bra she'd bought for this special occasion.  She immediately felt better and thought it was a good choice. But as the day wore on, the bra wore on her. By morning she just had to take it off.  There was no way she could wear it for 23.75 hours a day. Hmmm. That must be why it was called an 18 Hour Bra.
Goldilocks missed her old Genie Bra but thought it might not be supportive enough for her broken boob. She decided to try it anyway. The Genie Bra magically conformed to her body, just like before. It wasn't too scratchy, it wasn't too tight, it was just right. Read reviews from other breast surgery customers.
Today Goldilocks didn't take any pain medication because she wanted to see if her broken boob would really hurt. It's kind of numb because several nerves were cut under her arm so she did pretty well.
Tomorrow she will visit the surgeon and Thursday she will visit the oncologist to plan the next step.
Eventually, Goldilocks will live happily ever after.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Divine Appointments

There was so much to do to prepare for tomorrow's surgery but I'm ready to Kiss Cancer Good-Bye!

I don't know why I always look forward to seeing Doc. There must be something wrong with me, haha! On Monday I had my 10 day follow-up. All of my numbers looked good. My scarf slipped off when I removed my shirt. Doc exclaimed, "Your hair is coming back!", as she ran her hand over the downy tufts of new hair.
She explained why it's important to have the lumpectomy instead of mastectomy. I need radiation, which will damage the skin, making breast reconstruction impossible. She said she knew it would be a difficult week because the success of chemotherapy will be determined with the MRI on Tuesday and surgery on Thursday. I will see Doc a week after surgery to discuss the pathology report and make sure we're on track..

Then I went to the Mindfulness class. For you teachers out there; you know how good it feels when you have a great lesson plan and class ends on a high note? That's how my instructor probably felt because everything she put out there I had recent experiences to compare (known as activating prior knowledge).
We discussed the affects of stress on the body and how meditation corrects the damages to your brain. After yoga she sent "active Reiki love" to the surgical room, staff and me for Thursday.  It was a very comforting gesture. She let me borrow a CD from the Cleveland Clinic with meditation imagery. Their research found that listening to this will decrease infection, decrease pain meds needed, and decrease the length of hospital stay.

On Tuesday morning I had the breast MRI. With my face resting in this oval brace, I made a game of it by humming along with the machine and counting the clicks. When I was finished and lifted myself up I saw light brown marks where my forehead was. I suddenly looked at the tech and asked, "Did I rubbed off my eyebrows?!" He checked and said they were still there. Note to self:  put a brow pencil in my purse!

That afternoon I went back in for Pre-surgery testing. As I approached the desk I recognized the girl but couldn't remember from where. She said she knew me too and we both thought for a moment. Then it all came back to me. She was in the waiting room with me the day I got my mammogram on November 1st. She had a minor accident on her way there and was flustered as she told me all about it. When I went in for my mammo I was asked to go back out and wait because I needed an ultrasound.  When she finished her mammo she got to change out of her ballgown and leave.
Pointing to my scarf:  "I look different. I had hair back then."
Pointing to her head of long brown hair: "Don't worry. It will grown back."
I was shocked! She was so young but is a breast cancer survivor. And so is her mom and two aunts. We chatted a few more minutes. After the pre-surgery testing I went back to give her a can of Love.

My surgeon called me this evening to check on me. She said the MRI showed that the tumor did shrink so she will take it out and let the pathologist take a look.  It seemed as if I was talking with an old friend the way we were laughing and carrying on.

There have been a few more Divine Appointments this week but my fingers hurt (neuropathy) so I will have to close. Thank you for sending me hugs and prayers as I go through surgery tomorrow.

I have been so blessed all my life and don't think there is anything I would change. Not even having breast cancer.
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

Yesterday I took Katie to Berean Christian Bookstore so she could pick out a new Bible for her birthday.  It reminded me how much can change in just one year. I'm re-posted this article from Teach2Blog, May 1, 2012

     Over the weekend I lined up for Chris Spielman's  autograph with at least 350 fans who purchased his new book, That's Why I'm Here: The Chris & Stefanie Spielman Story. I was number 201 and waited two and a half hours, listening to all of these men around me (spoiler alert!) talk about how good the book was.
     But the time spent in that line was nothing compared to the 25 years I have been waiting to return a homework assignment Chris Spielman completed at Washington High School.  I replaced a retiring Family and Consumer Sciences teacher in 1987 and she saved everything!  I found a folder of graded resumes and decided to show the examples to my students learning about employment skills. One student could hardly contain himself. "Look, this is Chris Spielman's resume!". I got the class back on task and collected the resumes, returned them to the folder and back in the file drawer. The following semester I repeated the lesson, handed out the examples and another student said the same thing. Having lived through my first football season and the traditions in Massillon that year, I figured that Chris must have been a pretty good player. I mean, the kids were still talking about him! Little did I know that he had been playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes and later joined the NFL.  Eventually, I got with the program and started holding up Chris's resume, sometimes walking up and down the isles for the students to glance at this prestigious document.
Berean Christian Bookstore
     I left that job twelve years ago and the folder was stored in my basement until last weekend. Several times I've attempted to give the resume back to Chris. I am glad I finally got the chance to return it in person.
     There were so many parts of his high school resume that emulated his personal and professional life; being the captain of athletic teams, excelling academically,  working with children, and admiring the coaching staff by listing them as references. As teachers, we never know, out of the hundreds of students we meet during our career, which ones will reach their goals as life's rewards and disappointments intercept their hopes and dreams.
     Hopefully, e-books won't replace printed books in the future. Otherwise, how will we experience book signings? I mentioned that my sister had just completed her final chemo treatment for breast cancer. Chris took the time to write her a message of encouragement. That gesture deserves an A+.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reconstructing My Life

Yesterday, I saw my family doctor as a follow up to some medication changes he recently made.  I'm doing just fine in that department.  He wants to do another blood panel in 4 months.  He seemed very pleased at the last results .... about $100 came out of my pocket for it.  So, one more, then I'm putting my foot down.

Today, I saw my oncologist for my 3 month check up.  She asked if I had my colonoscopy screening set up since I'm now "of age" .... Should of had it last year when I turned 50, but I was busy!  Now that I turned 51 last week, guess I should put it on my calendar.  She asked if there were any relatives who had colon cancer.  I don't think so. 

She asked about the neuropathy, the pain.  And I asked about the weight gain and fatigue.  You will NEVER believe what she said! Eat right and Exercise! Imagine that!
Questions for doc

As usual, I had my written questions next to me.  She would look them over and answer them during the examination. 

* Since I'm taking estrogen blockers, why not just yank my one and only ovary and be done with it.  She said NO. Leave it as is.  (anybody know why? I got side tracked and forgot to ask)

* Should I get reconstructive surgery?  I really didn't care either way (nor does my husband).  But as time is going on,

my girls are getting more and more unbalanced.

Not my daughters, the other "girls"

She recommended the procedure and also recommended a plastic surgeon.  My sister heard great things about this doctor, so I will begin making plans.

That's all I can remember at this time.

All our prayers for the Boston people and the visitors from all over the world that were there during the heart-shattering chaos.  Prayers for the first responders, the people who began caring for the victims and each other ... for the families of lost loved ones and those who were injured. 

This world is broken .... ask God to hold you, give you comfort and amazing grace ~

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Warp Speed

A student took this photo of me today.
I wanted to show off my beautiful new scarf
from Betty! "In it to end it!"
It's been a busy, short week but I wanted to post this update before I go to bed.  I got a call from the hospital today and my surgery is scheduled for April 25th - in 2 weeks! OMG! I thought it would be in May.
My Mom flew to South Carolina today to visit my youngest sister, Heather, for a month.
This evening we went out to dinner with my sister, Carol to celebrate her birthday and my daughter's, which is on Friday. I can't believe Katie will be 16!
I just finished going through all of our receipts from last year for taxes. I marveled at how I could look at a list of items and recognize the events for which we made those purchases.  The holiday meals, the items for Katie's trip to Chicago her freshman year, the flats of flowers, 3 tons of rocks from a gravel pit,  lunch with just me and Tommy, the Homecoming dress in October. Then things got really quite in November except for some scarves and hats ordered from catalogs.
The past 5 months went by at warp speed. I've lived by the calendar filled with appointments. Every three weeks-chemo. Ten days later, a follow-up visit. And of course, in between, I had a few glitches and needed more appointments.

Tomorrow is my 8th and final chemotherapy treatment. I'm really happy that I'm almost finished! But I will miss the nurses and all of the tlc they've provided. I will be glad to get through this part of my treatment and move on to the lumpectomy, radiation and finally, healing, both inside and out.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Angels Make Me Smile

Somebody loves me! Today I received my 4th Angel from a Secret Angel Stitcher in Colorado. These are delicate lace angels, machine embroidered in many different colors.  Each angel I've received came with a card and nice note from the sender. The others are from North Carolina, Indiana and New York.  I've started hanging them across our mantel like Christmas cards!

This is a small group of women who support and encourage "others facing circumstances of physical, emotional, relational, or any kind of pain"   by making these lace angels for people nominated by loved ones.

I've been keeping my eyes, heart and mind open during this journey. I've been blessed with many skills; some have turned into hobbies. When I recover I want to give back to others. I thought about making quilts for those having chemo or teaching cancer patients how to blog. I'd definitely like to be a Secret Angel Stitcher.
I'm looking forward to checking the mail tomorrow!

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Do You Spell Relief?

I have not been able to sleep this whole week. I have tried everything, including the mindfulness exercises. But I think this will be the night I can finally fall asleep and may not get up for a couple days.

Genetic test results were negative! I do not have the mutated BRCA 1 or BRCA2 gene.

That made the appointment with my surgeon much easier. I will most likely be having a lumpectomy sometime at the beginning of May. (We need to check the size of the tumor after the final chemo to make sure this will work.)

Then radiation for 5 or 6 weeks in June. TaDa! I will be a new woman!

I  want to thank everyone for sending all the love, prayers and encouragement during this part of my journey. I have never felt so much power and peace at any other time in my life. I am so blessed!

Sweet Dreams!

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Last week at a doctors appointment I was having issues removing my shirt when my cap disappeared from my bald head. I grabbed it and sheepishly told the NP that I was having a bad hair day as I pulled it tight over my ears. When I slipped my shirt back on I asked Richard if I had accidentally rubbed my eyebrows off. He looked at me, tilted his head and asked if had drawn an expression on my face. I shrieked and pulled my cap down to the rim of my glasses. We were both cracking up as we left the office. As soon as I got in the car I looked in the mirror and sure enough my eyebrows were lopsided! I am not the artist in the family!

On Monday Doc told me to call my surgeon to start planning the next step. She said I will have surgery approximately 3 weeks after the final chemo which is April 11th. Tomorrow I will get the genetic test results and then will see my surgeon in the afternoon. I will find out when and decide what kind of surgery I will have.

I've been researching many different topics now that we are getting ready for the next phase. I want to be informed and to know the right questions to ask. I trust Doc and my surgeon. She is well known for getting "clear margins" and she was Carol's surgeon. I remember going to the consultation room with my brother in-law right after Carol's operation, shaking this surgeon's hand and thinking that she looked as young as my high school students. I never would have guessed that I would be her patient 16 months later.

 Everything happens for a reason!

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