Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

It's 5 days after my first chemo treatment and not a whole lot has changed...even though EVERYTHING has changed.

Here's the answer to the question I know you're all dying to know.
Yes, I still have my hair....for now.
Woo hoo! :)

The effects of my first chemo have been minimal so far. From what I hear from the chemo nurses, the first few days after treatment are usually pretty good. Fatigue sets in usually days 5-10. White blood cell counts dip down days 10-14 and then I should feel pretty good for a few days before I go in for my next chemo treatment.
So far, they have been pretty right on. I felt like a rock star yesterday. Today, I felt like I was hit by a truck. Overall, my good moments have far outnumbered the bad ones. I'm so thankful for that.

Some of the common side effects that I have been experiencing so far are a metallic taste in my mouth, extreme fatigue, mouth sores, itchy scalp and rashy skin. I'm feeling pretty sexy. ;)

Here's the plan of attack.
I will have chemotherapy every three weeks for six cycles. That will last until February/March.
At that time, I will have a bilateral mastectomy. Yep, both breasts are being removed even though only one side has a tumor.
I can't fathom going through this again and I think it would be stupid for me to leave breast tissue there that could easily become cancerous down the line. It's a personal decision that my doctor agrees with. I also would like boobs that match. Wouldn't you?
After the mastectomy, I will receive daily radiation on my lymph nodes for about a month.
If all goes well, I will have reconstructive surgery following that.

Based on that timeline, we're looking at about a year if I don't hit any downfalls with illnesses, etc.
It seems daunting right now, but every day marks one day closer to being cancer-free!

I have my MUGA heart test tomorrow. HOPEFULLY that shows normal flow. Prayers appreciated!

Your support has been overwhelming. Thanks again for all of the cards, texts, treats and meals. Love you!

The boys reading my cards. They are such day brighteners!

The kids and I cuddling with the new quilt my friend, Tiffany, made me. She is insanely talented and it is PERFECT. Thank you again, Tiff!

Karsyn has been rubbing my legs with lotion daily because she WANTS TO. Crazy, huh? It's awesome!

My mom and the kids surprised me with a cake when I woke up from one of my many naps.
She has been amazing with the kids.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to the beginning.....

I have received tons of messages inquiring how this all started. How did I find out? What were my feelings?

About a month and a half ago, I had my annual exam with my primary care physician. I had asked about my lumpy boobs. She did a breast exam, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and sent me on my way.
A few weeks later, I found a definite marble sized lump while I was doing a self exam. I had Eric feel it and told him I would watch it for a couple weeks to make sure it wasn't ovulation/period related.

A couple weeks following, I went to the same doctor who had given me the all clear. This time, she send me to the Suburban Imaging Breast Center for a mammogram.
The mammogram showed a definite lump. I was then sent down the hall for an ultrasound to see if *hopefully* the tumor was water filled, which would indicate it was a cyst. It wasn't. :( Immediately I was sent for an ultrasound guided biopsy of my tumor and lymph node.
The results would be back the following day, but according to the radiologist that took the samples, "I've been fooled before, but I would be shocked if this came back as anything but cancer." He also mentioned that with how big my lymph nodes are, he is pretty sure that the cancer had already spread out and was circulating through my bloodstream.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was in shock, and all alone. I walked out of the office to my car and the radio immediately started blasting "Good Life" by One Republic. Best.song.ever.

I drove home, grabbed my family and jumped in the car to drive to SD. During this ordeal, we had my beautiful cousin's wedding the following day, a trip to Las Vegas and Eric's best friend's wedding the following weekend.
We were about to receive a cancer diagnosis over the phone and not be able to act on it for at least 10 days.
It was brutal. We got the call 2 hours before I had to take Karsyn to my cousin's rehearsal dinner. She was the beautiful flower girl. It was so hard.
I just wanted to get in my car and go home.

The worst part wasn't the cancer diagnosis. No lie, that sucked donkey balls. The hardest part was not knowing where the cancer was currently at. It made for a very long trip.

We now know that I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with Lymph Node Involvement. I am also HER2+, which means that my body makes the cancer cells duplicate at warp speed. This is why my type is considered very aggressive and dangerous.

My supportive family raised me up in prayer and great thoughts and we are where we currently are....in a much better place.

This is what it looks like to tell your mom you have cancer. I hope you never have to say those words to your loved ones.

The day after my diagnosis, my mom and her friend Teri McBride joined Tori Simon's Cancer Walk.

The day after my diagnosis with the flower girl. :)

Eric and Cal on our Vegas trip.

As a reminder, FEEL YOUR BOOBS! Know them! Men can also get breast cancer. Early diagnosis is key. I had no family history and I'm under 40. While uncommon, this is obviously not impossible to get.
Educate yourself!

Love you all. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

07/25/11 Surgery and Chemo #1

Today was rough. We all barely slept last night knowing that we would have to be in surgery by 7:30 am in Woodbury.
I wish Ambien would magically roll through the vents of my house at around 8 nightly so everyone would sleep well. ;)

My dad took me to have my port installed. Eric went to work and my brave mom offered to stay with my kids. Eric made it at work for about an hour before I received the call that he was coming to spend the day with me. Awww!
The port went off without a hitch, but was a little more painful than I had imagined afterwards.

The purpose of the port is to give doctors and nurses a central place to draw my blood and administer IVs and chemo treatments for as long as needed. There's a tiny tube going from my "button" in my chest to my heart. The extra tubing gives the doctor some extra time to catch infections before they would enter my bloodstream.

Here's what it looks like.

After a few hours with the port people, we had a quick lunch and headed over to meet with my Oncologist, Dr. Hartung.
Because of my heart ultrasound the prior day, my course of treatment was being changed. It seems that I have iffy blood flow from within my heart. It could have been numerous factors contributing to that, so I will have a different scan next Wednesday. If it's still low, I will need to be seen by a cardiologist at a later time. This is going to be the least of my concerns right now.

Chemo started soon after and lasted about 5 hours in all. We had a private room where I was able to watch movies about Chemo (fun!), old Seinfeld episodes and hear Eric and Dad talk shop while I had numerous bags pumped into my port.
It was an excruciating day, but I don't think I could have done it without my support team with me.
The ones that weren't physically with me were texting and emailing all day. It was wonderful!
Please know that if I don't text or email you back immediately, it's not because I'm not getting your message.
I'm really trying my best.

We returned home around 7 pm to happy kids, a clean house, dinner and my mom still smiling. What a day!
Another great surprise was my wonderful friend, Sharon, sitting at my table.
She, herself, had breast cancer a few years ago. She has helped me more than anyone with what doctors to see, what to expect, tips to manage side effects. She's such a calming person and I thank God for her daily. I'm using all of her same doctors and I agree with her, they are the best!
She brought a cube of fun treats to combat nausea. Animal crackers and chocolate covered ginger, anyone? Also, great books that I can't wait to dive into. Breast Cancer for Dummies immediately caught my eye. :) It was just such a wonderful gesture from someone who had already traveled this path. Thank you, Sharon!
Me starting my 1st chemo.
Wonder Nurse, Celia
Dad and Eric, still going strong after 12 hours!
I made it through my first chemo treatment!

Thanks to all of you for your continued love and support. YOUR strength and graciousness has been amazing to us.
Love you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wigs are fun!

My chemo that was supposed to start on Friday has been moved to tomorrow. I was told that about 13 days after chemo starts, is when my hair will start to go. My gem of a mother came with me to an awesome shop today to look at new hair.

The owner, Jan, of It's Still Me is beyond words fab. She is a cancer survivor herself and made me feel like a million bucks. She had words of encouragement and tips for surviving the treatments. She is exactly who I needed to meet today.
She helped me choose two perfect wigs. One is long and very similar to my current hair style. The second is short and will look great with hats.

While I'm not looking forward to being a baldie, I'm no longer dreading it.

The call came.....

It's 8:40 a.m. and I just got a call from my surgeon. It's one that I've been dreading since my diagnosis.
As positive as I have portrayed myself to all of you, I've been crumbling inside. I just knew the cancer had spread. I felt pains I had never felt before and became hyper-sensitive to every ache and shiver. I was pretty sure it had spread through my body and was killing me more every minute.
I was at my worst yesterday.

Today is different. Today I got up. I showered. I straightened my hair. Why not? I won't have it much longer. :)
I made it until 8 am without having to pop a xanax. I fed my kids, played with them and cuddled longer than usual with them.
Today, I decided, no matter what the doctor told me, I was choosing to live.
I would be the case in textbooks of the 31 year old who beat cancer even though she was given low odds. No matter what, I was not going to just lie down and die. Not this cat. Not now.

Here's the twist. The call came. A somewhat cheerful Dr Schmidt said, "Angela, this is a good day for you! The cancer is a little worse in the breast than we had immediately thought, but it has NOT spread past your lymph nodes. We can take care of this."
I cried. She cried.
She told me to go tell my dad because she had promised him that she would do everything in her power to save his little girl.

This is the best news ever. God is GREAT. All of you are great. Your prayers were heard and God took mercy on me and is giving me a chance to live a little longer. Today, I still have cancer that will rock me to my core over this next year, but I DIDN'T receive news that I was no longer curable.

I just want to celebrate....after I meet with my oncologist at 11. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Appointment #1

Today was my first appointment with my surgeon, Dr Schmidt. Because of the size of my tumor and how aggressive it is considered, I will be starting chemotherapy before surgery.
Once the tumor has shrunk, I will have a bilateral mastectomy with eventual reconstruction. I will also be having both ovaries removed.
Somewhere in the mix of things, I will most likely also receive radiation treatments.

Currently, my breast cancer is considered stage 2B. That means that my tumor is between 2-5 cm and has already spread to my lymph node(s).
It is also considered a grade 3, on a scale of 1-3.
My breast cancer diagnosis is Infiltrated Ductal Carcinoma.

Aggressive is a term Dr Schmidt uses frequently. It scares me, but she did say numerous times that aggressive cancer responds really well to chemo. I'm banking on that.
Once I get my test results on Wednesday, my stage may be changed. At this time, I'm extremely happy with a 2B.

I have a full week of appointments ahead of me.
Tomorrow, Eric will be taking me to get an MRI and Pet Scan. This will show if the cancer has spread anywhere else in my body. This is the day I've been dreading. Please pray that it's ONLY breast cancer. What a funny thing to pray for, huh? I should have results on Wednesday.
We meet the oncologist on Wednesday. Thursday, I will have a port put in my upper chest to receive my chemo treatments.
Friday, my chemotherapy journey begins!

I cannot even begin to tell you all how much the messages, cards, texts, meals, calls and offers to babysit have meant to us.
You guys are keeping me going. I'm going to kick cancer's stupid ass for all of us. :)

My mom has moved in with us indefinitely to help with the kids, maintaining the house and transporting us. Our families have been so wonderful. Eric has been my rock.
This will make us all stronger, for sure.

Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated. Love you!