Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bone biopsy

I hope everyone is excited about Thanksgiving & ready to eat, eat, EAT! We aren't going to be able to go "home" for Thanksgiving. I have to work Wed & Thurs night since neither of us really had to the time to take off work with surgery coming up in less than two weeks. We didn't want to just be left out of the day though so we decided to have FRIENDSGIVING with another couple from church. We are going to get together with them on Friday night & have a huge, super traditional, Thanksgiving meal. I'm really looking forward to having our house full of love & laughter and just forgetting about all this for the night. I'm making the dressing, green bean casserole, crescent rolls, chocolate pie, and pumpkin pie! I'm also taking another dressing to work on Thursday night so I'm going to do some cleaning & food prep after I get done writing this!

I had my bone biopsy yesterday so a final decision regarding the stage of my cancer and whether it is in the bone or not can be made. It was a pretty painless procedure. They took me to a CT room (it was a CT guided biopsy) and gave me some drugs to put me in a "twilight state". There was an octopus, fish, and sea grass painted on the tiles above my head & I remember laughing because the grass and legs of the octopus began to move! After that I don't actually remember much of the day. I DO, however, think I remember waking up at some point to tell them something was hurting & seeing the doctor drilling into my hip with what I believe was a yellow Dewalt drill. I told him it hurt & then went back to sleep. I then remember waking up & my husband being there asking me to try & eat and drink. I remember drinking apple juice & eating peaches that he was feeding me. Then I remember being home & in my recliner. I know more happened during the day but I don't really remember it. It's so weird to lose a day! I know I was there & I know I said & did things but I'm not really sure what they were & if I should be embarrassed or not! I was told I would know results in 3-5 days so I'm expecting it to be next week due to the holiday & weekend.

Hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving! I can say that one positive thing about having cancer through the holidays is that I am so much more aware of how blessed I still am and how grateful I am for these moments. Sometimes these days just fly by but I'm determined to make the most of every, single, second. I hate that cancer has taken so much time from me and from us, but I won't let it steal my joy! We will get every bit of fun we can out of this and create memories that I hope last the rest of our lives! So eat that turkey, put some whipped cream on that pie, and enjoy your family and friends! You don't know how much time you have to do so!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How You Spend Your Dash

Things never go the way we think. I think I'm nearing the end of this journey & I get news that possibly tells me otherwise. I met with my radiologic oncologist (the guy who does my radiation) and he was very concerned about a spot that had shown up on my pubic bone. We knew something had been seen in a PET scan, but I had a bone scan that showed no activity so we thought that meant I was in the clear. The oncologist believes this spot is cancer and layered all the scans on top of each other to show me how it was always there in each scan I've had. I asked why the bone scan came back as "clear" and he showed me - quite clearly there is no bone there. It appears that the cancer has already eaten a hole in the bone. I've been scheduled for a bone biopsy on Nov. 22nd (ouch...thankfully I'll be asleep) and will know more after that biopsy but the oncologist & my surgeon feel pretty strongly that it is cancer. 

What does all that mean? If cancer has spread to my bone that means I have metastatic breast cancer - stage 4. This is just a fancy word that means some of my original cancer in the breast broke off & settled in a new area. We already know that I have several lymph nodes involved & that is how the cancer moves in the body - mine just seems to have moved to the bone. A bone metastases is very common and the hip & pubic area are a common spot. The scariest part of this is that once cancer has spread to the bones or to other parts of the body it's rarely able to be cured. I may never have remission & treatment will begin to focus on length & quality of life. While they can't make the cancer go away, it can be treated to shrink, stop, or slow it's growth. The damage that has been done to the bone has been done. If the biopsy comes back positive I will receive radiation to my hip area at the same time they are radiating the breast/underarm, but I'm not really sure what my other treatment options are. The oncologist mentioned more chemo but also said that chemo doesn't work well on a bone cancer since there is such little blood flow to the bone & I just had chemo - he doesn't think more will help. So beyond radiation I really don't know.

We are still a go for surgery on Dec. 5th. I can still feel the original tumor in my breast & I've stopped chemo. If they don't remove my breast that tumor will just begin to grow & spread again. I'm too young not to treat this as aggressively as possible. This may be what does me in but it won't be today. I will fight, I will continue living my life, I will continue laughing, I will continue loving. I will not lay down & die or be angry with God. I have moments where I'm just terrified or I cry, but those moments aren't as frequent as you might think. I have things I want to do next year. Right now I'm mostly planning Christmas in our immediate future, helping with the American Cancer Society next year, and a little more in the distance is a trip for our 10th anniversary & our next family trip to Disney World. That Disney trip was going to be my "celebration" trip when I was free of cancer and, no matter what this biopsy says, I still plan to take it. The one thing I can say that this cancer has done is make me more aware of  what I can do to help others & doing all I can to create  awesome memories with my husband & my kids. I want them to have amazing memories with me in them no matter if I have 5 or 50 more years with them. I will make my dash worth something!

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end. 

He noted that first came her date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears

But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years. 

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth

And now only those who loved her
Know what that dash is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash

What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash. 

So think about this long and hard 
Are there things you'd like to change? 

For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real

And always try to understand 
The way other people feel. 

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile

Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while. 

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life's actions to rehash

Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

And just like that...

...all my plans have changed. The neuropathy from Taxol hit me like a ton of bricks. One day I was fine, the next I noticed some burning in my feet, and the next my feet and hands were completely numb. The 21st was my last chemo & I didn't even know it (or get to ring the bell). My oncologist said he knew I was only going to make it through one or two more treatments &, at this point, surgery was more important than one or two more chemo's. I was given the choice to stop, take a week or two off & see if there was any improvement, or plow through with no guarantee that the numbness is ever going to get any better and the possibility of it getting worse. I chose to quit. 

While I do not doubt my decision, this does push surgery up from the beginning of Jan. to the beginning of Dec. - December 5th to be exact - and that brings a whole bunch of issues. I have worked full time the entire time I have been getting chemo. I have only missed one day of work & I'm very proud of that, but it's about to change. I will be out six weeks with this first surgery & have at least two remaining (the second reconstruction & a hysterectomy) surgeries. I have mentioned before that we have only lived in Tulsa since Jan. & I started my job at the beginning of Feb. This means I don't have 12 months in yet & I'm not eligible for FMLA. I also have to continue paying for my health insurance during this time. I have about 115 hours of PTO & I'm only assuming they will let me use all of it - I'm going to HR next week to find out what my options are. This still leaves me with a little over 3 weeks of paid leave - half of what I need. I'm so stressed out about this - I've given myself a fever blister. We have all of our normal expenses plus extra Christmas expenses & now we are going to have a loss of half of our income for a while. Add that to the knowledge that we already have gotten several thousand dollars in medical bills & you have me as a hot mess. While I know this isn't my fault, I am having a lot of guilt. I'm trying to relax, remember that the Lord will provide for us, & let people that say they want to help do so. 

We have already had offers of help. People who have gone through this have been reaching out to let me know about their experience & offer advice. My mom is coming to town for "as long as you need" & I know she means that. A friend made an online "meal train" & every meal has been signed up for after just a few hours. We are very grateful for that & it takes a big worry off me. 

I know that we will be ok - but I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared. This is the part I'm the most nervous about & it is every aspect. What am I going to look like? How much is this going to hurt? How long before I can go back to work? How are we going to afford this? How am I going to make this work when I can't even raise my arms above my head or lift anything? I'm sure there are going to be questions that I haven't even though of yet! 

Also, please give me grace if I can't remember something or have to turn down an invitation. I have 19 days off work before this happens and only 7 of those days fall on weekends. Rich will have to work 2 of those 7 so that leaves 5 days to get in some family time before I am out of order for a while. We are going to try & fit in as much "fun stuff" together as we can. I hate that I'm going miss the activity that comes with one of my favorite times of the year but I know it's better to be this way for one & be around for many more.