Radioactive, Radioactive

If you’re going to get a PET scan, you should know that they insert an IV line and inject you with radioactive dye. You lie in a chair for 60 minutes, as still as you can, while the dye courses through you body. They then come and get you, allow you to pee, then take you to the imaging room. The scan itself takes between 15-20 minutes, and it’s best to close your eyes if you’re claustrophobic.

On another important note, you should know your discharge papers will state that you should stay away from small children and pregnant women. Ummm… yeah… As a mom, it really would have been nice to know that before going.

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A Days Work

Have you ever been super excited to go to work? Walking with a serious pep in your step, practically skipping, with a stupid grin stuck on your face? I haven’t either… until today. Yes, my friends, today I went to the office for the first time since December 18, 2013. It was glorious.

Why, may you ask, would I do that? Because I CAN! I don’t feel good, I feel like ME. I can’t over express that in the absence of feeling sick, pain, nauseous, weak, yaddah, yaddah is a blissful sense of- being.

Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges. My first meeting this morning I walked in and surprised my colleagues, including my boss, my senior vice president, 2 VPs, lawyers, directors and a few worker bees like myself. Everyone was so kind and generous with their smiles and words. Not wanting to distract too much from this meeting I quickly take the nearest seat, next to my SVP. As I pull myself up to the conference table, with everyone still looking and smiling at me, these gigantic new, unwieldy, tissue expanded mounds of not-yet-reconstructed boobs knock directly into the table for all to see. Somewhat embarrassed that I feel like I can’t control my body I immediately let out a nervous laugh and go into a completely inappropriate diatribe about my new fake boobs, resplendent with a full description of my last fill, where they have grown into my arm pits and how misshapen they are. Silence. Absolute silence as I see a few smiles, more than one mouth agape, and once I exclaim “I still got it”, heartwarming laughter.

For one day, today, I was someone other than cancer. I’ll take that.

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My Road To “Recovery” Is Full Of Potholes

I’m learning rather quickly that what I have planned for how this is all going to go down means absolutely bubkis in all of this. So here what was supposed to happen:

  • Surgery Dec 20, 2013
  • Approximately 2 weeks later, I’d be feeling pouty and sore, but I have it all worked out to go into the office where I have been granted an additional desktop computer. 1 for work, 1 for home. I’ll nary miss a minute of all the social media drama and action.
  • I will spend the next week or so slowly building up to regular business hours while simultaneously determining what my chemo regiment will be and determing my very orderly chemo schedule.
  • I will begin chemo. I will allow myself approximately 2, no let’s say 3 days to be kind to myself, to feel sick, then back to run some hours in the office. Not too many. I’m not a complete nutter. Just start with 4. Then work the 3rd week before my next round a regular office schedule.

What happened?

Cancer. That’s what happened. First, the mild depression the first week after surgery that the pain, the pill popping, the weakness, drains, aches, pains, stitching, oh-my-god-when-can-I-take-a-shower, day after day with no end in site. I was not prepared for the mere fact that I could wake up the next day and not feel at all better. Not one bit.

Week 3

Finally, after you will take anything as confirmation that you’re getting better, I was ready to brave the office and see someone, anyone, other than my family. (Sorry. Love to you all and for all you’re doing, but you know it’s true.) I finally had 2 of my 4 drains out and was ready to get up and around. My poor children spent their Christmas Day watching me sit in a chair in a haze, barely able to fake-enjoy it for their sake. I woke up that morning with a huge increase in pain and stiffness, ready to rip the tissue expanders out with my bare hands. I called the office and have the best nurses ever. I explained clearly that this makes no sense. I have had 2 significant surgeries with my children and at the end of 2 weeks you’re up and around. Kim did all she could not to laugh at me while she patiently explained that c-sections are quite different. I had just had pieces of my body removed, and between weeks 3-8 the severed nerve endings start regenerating. This, it seems, is all quite common and a positive sign. Back to narcotics land we go. Drains pumping, no driving, napping in mid-day, and you definitely don’t want me on social media sites on Lortab.

Monday, bloody Monday

After a strong week at home, the pain subsides and I finally get the other drains out. Ah ha! Ready to implement said plan. I feel pretty good. I’d say cocky even. I’m going to shower, with no adults around and alone in the house with my 4 year old. Getting out of the shower I am inspecting the incision on the cancer side (right) where we have been nursing some soft tissue that is still really mad it doesn’t have the former blood supply and isn’t sure it wants to continue to stay with me. While I’m looking down and pulling gently on my skin
*Graphic Content Warning*
my itty bitty little booby pops like a zit, squirting bloody fluid 12″ in front of me. When the gushing pressure subsides, it turns into a slow tidal wave of the stuff, pouring all over my bathroom. Confusion and total panic set in. I grab towels to apply pressure, as my flight attendant training clearly says you’re supposed to do while pouring fluid out of your body. As I stand in the bathroom I realize it reminds me of a scene out of some bad horror movie. While I’m bleeding through the towels, I text my poor sister who just got off a plane from London to hurry, because I think I’m dying. OK, not really dying. But I did tell her I’m home alone with Hannah (the 4 year old), still unable to drive, and I don’t want her to walk in. It all worked out just fine, but just two days before my first chemo and I suddenly have a new drain, which equals a new hole in my body.

The moral of this story?

I don’t really have one, sorry. I could give you some lemon analogy, but so far that’s crap. It’s drugs, naps, tears, watching the kids from afar, and driving my poor hubby to the brink of near insanity. But I do plan to go to work this week.

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Word of the day: neu-tro-PEN-ic

Wikipedia, in it’s infinite crowdsourced wisdome, defines it as this: Neutropenia, occasionally spelled neutropaenia or neutropoenia, from Latin prefix neutro- (neither, for neutral staining) and Greek suffix -πενία (deficiency), is a granulocyte disorder characterized by an abnormally low number of neutrophils. Neutrophils usually make up 50-70% of circulating white blood cells and serve as the primary defense against infections by destroying bacteria in the blood.

I have a slight variation on that as I am now an expert, having gone through exactly 1 chemo treatment. I would define it as the inability to sit or stand for more than a few minutes without feeling like you’re going to
a) pass out
b) throw up
c) poop yourself
d) all of the above, in various combinations, in rounds and waves

It also feels remarkably like when I have gotten food poisoning. You feel awful (see above). When you finally lie down long enough that you don’t feel the immediate need to puke, you think you’re going to be ok. You get cocky. You decide to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, or a bowl of cereal. You get to the kitchen and half way into a routine exercise, you’re toast and must run to the couch to lie down again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

My poor children wonder why I lie around all day in my pajamas and won’t get up to get them strawberry milk. They’re devastated. I am mean and lazy. OK, not really, but it sucks. And they kiss my hand. I try to nap. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Neutropenia. In our house, another new day of normal.

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What’s old is new again…

While I’m thankful that my baby sister started this blog and had the great idea to continue to document the legacy of our genes, it comes with a deep fear. I’m not afraid of failing at this, in front of people, but the fear that I have now somehow marked my children for this. Not only marked them for this, but will scar them by this.

As a full time working mommy, we carry a great burden of guilt with us. I believe that the guilt is actually something we want to carry, because if we didn’t feel guilty then we’d just be horrible mothers. But now I’m a working mommy, who leaves her kids in the care of others for 10 hours a day, and can’t take care of her children after that, relying on kindness or payment to sitters to support. What will they say when I can’t put them in bed? What will they say when I can’t pick them up and hold them? When I lose my hair? When I can’t get their milk with “pudding” in it?

I’m sure all these fears will surface and we’ll get through them, but we have to find some way to not continue another generation of women losing anything to this disease: life, body parts, living, energy….

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My First Day As A “Real” Cancer Patient

1st Chemo yesterday was as good as it can be. We got there to start lab work, meet doc, start chemo at 1030am. We got in the car to go home at 6pm. LOOOOOONG ASS day!!!! The taxitol was rocky. I started feeling funky, got immediate acid reflux, followed by wave of heat induced nausea and other funk. They immediately stopped the drip, added saline, and a new histamine blocker, then sat for a while before restarting. When we restarted an hour or so later we went really really slowly. Got off and on symptoms. First I felt 1 or 2 days post flu- funky and weak but not violently ill. Then got wave of nausea that I took care of. Then later I got shaking chills with that fever onset like last week. It stayed pretty low but I was concerned. Popped more pills for the fever onset, steroids, this and that… It’s like walking a tightrope while playing whack-a-mole. They say in general I shouldn’t feel the more violent effects until today and tomorrow. Fun!

Hannah and Holland are managing as well as 3 and 4 can be expected. Hannah is on hair watch. I walked in from chemo and Hannah said “mommy! You still have hair!” Then this morning she came in my room, kissed my hand, then said “You still have hair. I just felt it.” Then she came back and asked me very sweetly if I could get up and help her. She told me “…hold my hand. If you feel weak you can squeeze my hand and I’ll be your prince.” I’m so blessed with my little people. They are a challenge and a blessing and the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

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Introducing: Killerboob, Chapter II

Hi! It’s been awhile, I know. Killerboob hasn’t been quiet for over a year, but something has happened, and I think this is a great place to share it.

Unfortunately, that thing is my sister getting her own breast cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, she’s willing to share her story, too. For all the purposes Killerboob ever served, it’s about to up and do it again, with a new driver at the wheel! This time I’m on the outside looking in at a loved one who’s sick and the cancer journey is coming from a different angle.

It’s almost eight years later, a different kind of cancer, a different life situation (a husband and two young, crazy kiddos!) and a very different personality. Introducing: Killerboob, Chapter II

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