Exchange Surgery

So I am a little behind with the blog but life happens, right?  Last Thursday my wonderful plastic surgeon exchanged my “hockey pucks” or tissue expanders with the silicone implants. BEST DAY EVER. Everything went well and I recovered very quickly. I think my first surgery and all the weekly expansions really helped with the recovery because I didn’t have to take any pain meds after this surgery. I had a follow up appointment today with the plastic surgeon and there are a few things he might have to fix but we won’t address that until after my herception infusions are done and I am able to have my port removed (hopefully July). Everything is so much more comfortable now. I spare you all the lovely details about my fake breasts. 

I met with my oncoligist a couple weeks ago for my 3 month check up. I can’t believe it has been 3 months since I have spoke to my doctors, that seems so strange. After relying on these doctors and nurses for so many months and then it just stops, and there’s nothing, no weekly phone calls or visits. They did routine labs and everything looked okay except for my estradiol level, which I was prepared for. Basically, estradiol is a form of the hormone estrogen, and my levels were around 360 and they want me to be around 20. So that’s a little high. My breast cancer feeds off estrogen so that’s not good. The next step was to start a infusion of Zoladex and hopefully that will shut down my ovaries and alive that problem. I would really like to avoid having any major surgeries but I trust all my doctors and will follow their lead. One of the most common side effects of the Zoladex is hot flashes so I’ve got that going for me. 

My hair is finally growing back and I just had my first hair cut. My girlfriend hooked my up with some It Works Hair Skin and Nails supplements that I just started so I’m anxious to see the growth in the next couple months. I had to wait until after my surgery to start taking them so we shall see. My hair gives me the most anxiety so the sooner it grows, the sooner I will have extensions in. 

More to come later, this momma is tired. Thank you to my wonderful family for helping out over the last couple weeks. I wouldn’t be in this place without my family and extended family. 

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Anxiety Rules

So I’ve been busy. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to have anxiety attacks about getting cancer again (just anxiety attacks about everything else). Right before Christmas I started back to work full time and I think that has been my saving grace. Having a full time job in healthcare, two little girls, and the holidays really keeps my mind off the big things that would normally set my anxiety off. There were a couple moments throughout the holiday in which I had to self medicate myself or overserved myself. Such a reaccuring habit for me. 

I am two months post surgery and almost at 100% again. My left arm is still having some auxiliary cording issues but nothing that keeps me from doing daily tasks. I will continue to do physical therapy once a week until it has resolved. My lovely breast expansion has come to an end and I will be picking out my implants and scheduling my exchange surgery this week. Exciting stuff. I am so ready to get these hockey pucks off my chest. It is amazing how little I care about breasts after all of this, I stress over my hair much more. Why is my hair parting when it is so short? I guess that cute pixie cut is going to have to be earned. The awkward hair phase will be lasting for a few years so I guess I’ll just have deal. My nails aren’t growing back as well as the hair which is super embarrassing. They are super brittle, a little discolored, and very short. It’s strange how the little things bug me more than the big things. Well, they aren’t big anymore. 

I wanted to start this year off different, very cliche I know. After having cancer at 34 years old you don’t sit back and wait for it to develop again, you live. I told myself I wanted to be a better wife, a better mom, and a better friend. I’m not sure if the better drugs I have now but I’m happier than I was. My anxiety is my number one problem I deal with on a daily basis but I am slowly learning how to treat certain situations. For example, I’m deathly afraid of heights. It’s not just the height that scares me, it’s the falling to my death and the aftermath of that. I know it’s silly and it has become worse with age. I am determined not to let this rule my life! So this past weekend we went up to the mountains in Colorado with some great friends to ski. Well, they all ski and I haven’t done it since a was teenager. I signed up for a ski lesson and off I went to the big mountian. Okay so it was more of a hill but I went through with it. As the lesson go more intense I knew that they would make me use the chair lift which has been the greatest fear of all. My heart was about to jump out of my chest but I did it. It was super scary for me but it’s done and I will never do it again. After that lesson, I took off those uncomfortable ski boots and sat my happy ass down at the bar where I belong.  The fact that I tried it is all that matters. 

I hope that this year I will get a firm grip on the anxiety that follows me around everyday. It will not run my life like in the past. Do you see the fear in my eyes? This was right before the ski lesson. 

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Cancer Free

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in June, I honestly never dreamed that I would be cancer free 6 months later. I have to admit, I had it easy compared to what some people go through and I’m truly grateful for that. The chemotherapy was by far the worst experience ever and surgery was awful but bearable. When I was diagnosed in June the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes so radiation seemed unavoidable. I meet with the radiation oncologist at Menorah Medical Center and was told that I should have radiation because it was “the standard of care”. I was convinced that was the smartest answer when it came to my case. With any major decision I had to get a second opinion. I strongly suggest that with any cancer diagnosis that you get a second or third opinion. My second opinion was with The University of Kansas Medical Center, Dr. Mitchell. I loved her approach to the consultation and she is incredibly smart. She called the pathologist from my surgery and wanted to speak to him directly to go over all parts of my pathology report. I was surprised that she had showed me all the studies and guidelines she uses and how she determines whether to recommend radiation or not. Dr. Melissa Mitchell explained to me why she wouldn’t recommend chemotherapy and how she came to that decision. I am choosing to follow her recommendation because I believe her and I trust her. So, no radiation for this girl. The University of Kansas Medical Center has been amazing through this cancer hell, they really know what they are doing and have amazing staff. 

This was a big week on the plastic surgery front as well. On Monday I had my first expansion and it went well. My plastic surgeon, Dr. Paul Leahy, said that I was healing nicely and that we could start filling my tissue expanders. This was the part I was dreading the most. So basically they fill a syringe with silicone and insert it into my breast so it fills the tissue expanders. It didn’t hurt but became uncomfortable later in the day. My breasts basically feel like rocks sitting on my chest. Every Monday I will go and get a little more filled until I reach the desired amount and then we will schedule the exchange surgery. The exchange surgery will just be an outpatient procedure and I shouldn’t be out long for it. I’m getting pretty excited. I am still going to have to wait 6-8 weeks before I can start working out, like the end of March or early April. Grrrr. 

Since the surgery, my left arm hasn’t healed the way they would like so I have started physical therapy. They (breast surgeon, lymphodema specialist, and physical therapist) believe I have a lot of nerve and tissue damage. All I know is that it hurts and I don’t have a full range of motion on my left side. I feel like all the therapy and stretching I have been doing should be doing the trick but still no progress. The physical therapist is great and I have only wanted to punch her a couple times. Completely serious. I am still numb on parts of my chest and underarms so touch is very uncomfortable and makes my skin crawl. They say it gets better but I have yet to notice it. I have one more week before I go back to work so hopefully we can make some progress next week. 

I’m excited to get back to somewhat a normal life. I will still be having Herception infusions every 3 weeks until July, I will be taking Tamoxifen for the next 10 years, and I will most likely have some lingering side effects from surgery. I’m excited to get back to work. I’m excited to do more things with my children. I’m excited to do a little traveling with my husband. I’m excited for my hair and fingernails to grow out. I miss my hair. I miss it a lot. 

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After Surgery

I have struggled to write a follow up to my mastectomy surgery. It has been a very long and stressful couple weeks and I didn’t want my thoughts to come across bitchy. My surgery was long, like 8 hours long, but very successful. The breast surgeon took her time and 22 of my lymph nodes on my left side which is fine by me. The first night in the hospital was fine until I had to use the restroom. After having children I knew that getting out of bed for the first time would be agonizing and I seriously thought of just letting it go in the bed. I should have but called the nurse instead and her and my mother helped me get out of bed. Thank God for pain pills. I was released from the hospital the following day and they next couple days were just a blur. 

The worst part of my surgery was by far the 4 surgical drains that were attached to me. I won’t go into detail but they are awful. Google JP Drains. My plastic surgeon was adimit on keeping all the drains in for a full two weeks so for the last two weeks I carried a bunch of tubing around my stomach and tried not to make any sudden movements. To be honest, drinking wine was my only relief. I was completely over everything and everyone. There were some really dark times in the last couple weeks and I hope they stay in the past. 

My breast surgeon called me days after the surgery and left me the greatest message ever, cancer free. I had prepared myself that I would most likely not have a complete pathological response, it was a 50/50 chance. I cried. And then I cried some more. All of the chemo had worked. 

On Monday, my plastic surgeon removed my drains from both sides. Very painful, don’t listen to anyone that tells you that it isn’t. I still have tape over all the insisions but have been told I was healing nicely. I’ll be honest, I still haven’t looked at my chest much. I try and hide from my husband so that he can’t see the scars. It continues to be an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t seem like it will be ending anytime soon. 

I just wanted to thank everyone who has helped me through these last couple weeks. The meals have been helpful for my family (some of you really know how to cook chicken, very tasty). I am still struggling to get full range of motion in my left arm but will continue to work on it everyday. I will continue to update everyone in the upcoming weeks. I still have a million doctor appointments and have to find out if I’m going to need radiation. 

Tomorrow I will practice driving. Pray for me. 
Thank you. 

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Almost Surgery Time

One week from today I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy with axillary lymph node dissection, along with reconstruction. So basically I’m having my breast tissue removed, most or all my lymph nodes on my left side removed, and tissue expanders put in to make room for implants later on down the road. Sounds pretty violent right? All of those things happening and only one night in the hospital. I suppose if all goes well I will have some amazing perky breasts with killer nipple tattoos in a year or two. It really is amazing what they can do with a tattoo gun these days. The tissue expanders will be placed the day of surgery and will be slightly filled and then expanded over the next 8 weeks to my desired size. Very uncomfortable and painful at times from what I hear. My situation is a little different from my mothers and sisters, my cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes so radiation has always been the plan. After meeting with a radiation oncologist at Menorah, he suggested that I plan on doing radiation even if my pathology comes back negative for cancer. So the pathology from my surgery is going to be super important and will determine my next move with the killing of the cancer.  I would rather not do radiation but if will help further my life then I’m all in. Funny little story.  When the radiation oncologist came into the room he started off by saying how sorry he was to hear of my diagnosis. He explained that when my breast surgeon had presented my case at the board meeting, a year earlier before I had cancer, that they didn’t think a mastectomy was in my best interest because my sister and mother were BRCA negative. All the doctors were very surprised when my name popped up in June with a triple positive breast cancer diagnosis. I told him I was still just a little bitter. Okay, maybe a lot bitter. 

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely nervous and scared. The thought of having to look at myself after the surgery is what scares me the most. It will take a lot of time and I’m sure I won’t let my husband look at me for at least a year or two, but the shock will eventually go away. Will he still love me? Will I look like an alien in a swimsuit? Can I love myself? Cancer is an emotional roller coaster for me and I don’t expect it to end anytime soon. It has changed me forever. I don’t know if I will ever be the same girl I was before but I will do anything and everything to be a good role model to my girls. I want to to be that amazing wife that husbands brag about (still working on that) and that mom that kids want to be around.  I am very thankful for my family and friends that have been there for me through the last couple months.

So the next week I will be nesting like a fool most likely and trying to gain back a little weight. My taste buds have come back almost completely so I’m enjoying foods that I haven’t had in months. I never thought I would miss salad so much but lettuce was not my friend during chemotherapy. Election night is tomorrow so maybe I’ll treat myself to some steak and potatoes and maybe even a glass of wine (God knows we will all need the wine tomorrow night). I’m looking forward to spending the weekend with my family this weekend before I’m confined to my house for the next couple weeks. 

Another funny story. So my husband and I ran up to Sam’s Club the other day and were approached by one of those people pitching a new product for the holidays. You know what she handed him? A hair straightener. Now if you don’t know my husband, he shaves is head. I didn’t have a wig on either so I was confused on why she would hand us a hair straightener to try. I’m still a little sensitive about the whole hair loss. Some people. 

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Bye Felicia, I mean Chemo

After having to skip my Taxol chemotherapy last week due to low blood counts I was pretty bummed out. I was scared that I wasn’t going to get better in time for my my last treatment today or that we would need to push surgery back. So last night I sat in bed, Ambien-less, and thought about what life was going to be like moving forward.  I tried to remember what “normal” felt like. Many breast cancer survivors say that life never goes back to “normal” and that you will always have little things that you will deal with everyday. I’m not going to accept that. I will not let breast cancer rule my life (my four year old already excels at that job). 

Today was emotional. Very emotional. I finished my chemotherapy with no problems or set backs. I will still go back every 3 weeks until July for Herceptin infusions but they will be quick and easy, no side effects. 

​Next is a couple weeks full of many doctors appointments and recovery from chemo. On Monday, November 14th I will have my surgery at Menorah Medical Center. I will be have a double mastectomy with axillary lymph node dissection with resconstruction. My lymph nodes were positive for cancer cells when this all started so we are just going to take them out. After we get the pathology back the doctors will decide what the next set will be. Some doctors are saying radiation and some are saying that I may not have to have it. Of course I will be getting multiple opinions from some great doctors.

Just wanted to say thank you to all my friends and family for the continued support. It is amazing to hear from people that I haven’t seen in years. I believe that if you surround yourself with good people that are kind, loving, and compassionate, you really have it all. I am looking forward to the future and spending time with the ones I love. 
And eating lots of great food. 

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Giving Back

The ups and downs of chemotherapy are exhausting, just ask my husband. He has been such a trooper through all of this and I truly couldn’t do it without him. This week has been so much better than the last two weeks. Thank god. My tastebuds are slowly coming back and all the really ugly side effects have disappeared. My amazing oncologist and nurse practitioner have switched my chemotherapy to Taxol, which are lower doses and given in weekly treatments. Four more weeks!!! Hopefully these treatments have little to no side effects and I’m able to keep my counts up every week to keep on schedule. My surgery has been set for Monday, November 14th and I’m determined to get to that day so I will fight through the next four weeks. 

As the end of my chemotherapy comes to an end, I would love to do something to help put a smile on other patients going through the same thing. Chemotherapy has been the toughest and most depressing time of my life so far. The loss of my hair has been devastating. My skin is completely dried out and ashy. My nails are turning colors. I have lost so much weight and muscle that I feel weak. It has put me into a depression that I could never imagine. I feel unattractive and embarrassed by the way I look. I know it’s silly but it’s the truth. Hopefully I can help a little bit when it comes to helping someone else going through the same thing. 

As many of you may know, I am a stylist for Stella & Dot. I have put my business on the back burner lately because of my health, family, and my (real) job. I would love to do a little fundraiser/program for the other chemotherapy patients at the KU Cancer Center. We will call it “Sponsor a Pouf” and it is going to be amazing. All I’m asking is for you to buy a pouf from Stella & Dot and I will fill it up with some great goodies. I received some pretty great gifts from everyone during chemotherapy but it was the little things that most people wouldn’t think about that made the difference. Things like a great hand lotion, Chapstick, lemon heads, blush, nail files, lip gloss, and mouthwash. I used all these things on a daily basis. My goal is to sponsor at least 25 poufs and give them to the KU Cancer Center on my last day of treatment in October. I plan on using my commissions from the “Sponsor a Pouf” and our Breast Cancer Awareness Boutique to purchase some fun things to fill the poufs with. The poufs are just $24 and will run you around $32 after shipping and taxes. Just click the link below and at check out select ship to hostess and it will come right to me. Or you can paypal me or if you are in the area, just $27 and I will place a bulk order. 

Our Breast Cancer Awareness Boutique items are available now! I love the rose gold pieces…especially the necklace. It is so simple and classy. You need this piece. These would also make great gifts. 
There are so many women in my life that have been affected by breast and ovarian cancer lately, which is super scary. From now until October 31st, all net proceeds from the Breast Cancer Botique will be donated to Bright Pink by Stella & Dot. Bright Pink is a non profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women (ages 18-45).  

I would love your support. I would love to give some of these woman battling breast cancer a little gift in hopes to make their day just a little better. Shop this link for the poufs and some really great jewelry.

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