Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A New Beginning???

Wow!!!  It's almost been two years since I last updated my blog!  So much has happened.  Too much to pick up where I left off!  But in a way...I'm kind of where I left off in November of 2010.

Apparently I'm in remission...AKA Cancer Free.  Whatever that means!  What does remission really mean?  Well...I didn't know either.  So I did what any American would do...I googled it!  Seems as though someone in remission has no sign of cancer anywhere in their body and is no longer being treated for cancer.  So I guess I technically fall under that category. 

Except.......

Once you've had cancer you are never free from cancer.  My therapist said it best...and I keep going back to this in my mind.  Cancer is a chronic condition that you can only stay one step ahead of.  That being said, I in no way feel as if I'm cancer free for the long run.  Maybe for the time being, but not in
the long term. 

Today was my first day back in the real world after receiving the "good news" yesterday.  I've had many hugs and more congratulations than you can imagine!  And it makes me FEEL like a million dollars!  But how I feel and how I think are two different things. 

First of all....I've been here before and I've been burned.  From June 15, 2010 when I had my last real chemo treatment until July 17, 2011 when I was told there was a spot on my lung, to Sept 16,2011 when it was confirmed that it was cancer I thought I was done with all of this.  I was happier than ever before.  Felt better than ever before.  Had a new outlook on life.  Felt like I had been through all of that to learn what is really important in life. 

Then the magic carpet that I created in my mind was pulled out from under me when I woke up from the most painful surgery of all on September 16, 2011 to hear that the spot in my lung was indeed cancer. 

So fast forward to yesterday.  CT scan and PET scan show no significant changes from the previous scans.  I can come off of this chemo pill that I've been on for a full year.  No more trips to Greenville every six weeks for blood work.  No more "night time pill" that makes me gain weight at a rapid rate but helps with the side effects of the chemo pill.  Everything is lovely again, right???

Not so much.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm happy to have this moment, however long it lasts, of being cancer free.  I'll take it and be thankful for it.  But I can't let myself get too carried away with the good news and have the possibility of being in the same position as last year about this time...when my whole world changed yet again and I was so wrapped up in my own positive thoughts that I never saw it coming! 

So what do I do to keep from being too delusional? 

First of all I must keep telling myself that cancer is a disease.  A chronic disease that I need to stay one step ahead of.  And that doesn't just mean prevention.  It means preparation.  I need to be prepared for good news as well as bad news for the rest of my life.

I also need to make short term plans...not long term ones.  At this point I am not thinking any further ahead than 12 weeks...which is when my next scan is.  I can't logically make plans for Easter or next summer without getting through the next 12 weeks first. 

I absolutely HAVE to enjoy every second of the next 12 weeks!!!  I can't put off having fun or doing things that I've always wanted to do because who knows what I might be up against in 12 weeks.

So there's an update.  You may see it as doom and gloom or a lack of faith but I see it as practical and logical.  And that is my comfort zone.  So I will continue to be grateful for the good news, however, I will maintain a logical approach to this whole "cancer free" thing. 

Thank you for your continued support!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's alright to cry...

Here's what I've learned about cancer.
Cancer sucks. There's nothing fun about it. But the really hard part is when it's all over.
About two months ago I kept having these break downs. Nothing really triggered them. I would just start crying and not know why or what to do to stop it. I felt completely overwhelmed and broken. Just when life was getting back to "normal" I couldn't seem to get there. Everything that was put on hold while I was just getting through the day was now piled up. I was just realizing that my whole life stopped but the world around me continued and I had a lot of catching up to do.
Then, when I'd try to explain how I was feeling I would start crying and not be able to stop for days. No one ever said the right thing. Reed kept telling me that I should be happy and enjoy life now that I'm finally healthy. I knew that was true but I couldn't. And that made me feel ungrateful, like being healthy wasn't enough. Presley hung up on me because I was being "snappy." That set me off. All the anger that was in me came out at her...poor thing. She NEVER saw that coming! Lisa kept telling me to just let somethings go. I had too much on my plate and I needed to stop trying to fix the world and just work on fixing me. But how? That's what I do...I help people. That's what makes me feel good. But that wasn't working anymore. Thank GOD I listened to Cara and had already made an appointment with a counselor. When I realized just how many people actually see a counselor I thought maybe I DID need to see someone with all that I'd been through this year.
So I went. And the first time I saw her she told me I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I left there wondering how that could be. I thought about it for a week and then it all made sense.
The only time I cried since January 13th was one time when they first told me I had to have a double mastectomy in less than a week and that I was probably going to need chemo too. Other than that, I put on a happy face and just did what I had to do. I had no other option! So through the horrific surgery and recovery, the chemo, losing my hair, missing out on so much of my kids' lives, and all the other fun stuff that comes along with cancer, I never cried.
And now it was all coming out.
I had to go back to the oncologist for my three month check up. They sent me to the chemo treatment room to access my port for my blood work. I have been back there more times than I care to remember. And it never bothered me. I always went back there with a smile and some new gadget to occupy my three hour chemo treatment, making friends with the other people lined up in recliners. But this time was different. I just sat there the whole time trying not to cry thinking, "I can't believe I did this so many times and it was no big deal. This is a big deal. These people are sick. They may not make it. That lady was here when I was here. Why is she still here? That man is much thinner than he was this summer. Has something happened? Why is he still here? That poor lady has been here with her husband so many times. She HAS to be tired. Where's the lady I met the first time? She should be here, this is her day." I felt the way Elizabeth Robbins must have felt the first time I made her come with me so she could see that it's not so bad. Where was I?!?! How did I miss this?!?!
I have said this a million times. I've never felt like I was going to die. Even before I knew if it had spread or not, or what stage it was, I NEVER felt like it was life threatening. But when I look back I realize that just one wrong decision could have cost me my life. I could have very easily been one of the ones that didn't make it. If I had not gone to the doctor when I did. If she had said to just keep an eye on it, see if it gets any bigger. If Dr. Habal had not insisted on a mastectomy. If I had not done chemo, even if it was just for "insurance." I'm not saying that I did everything right. But somehow I was at the right place at the right time with the right people. I got lucky.
Here's another thing that's changed...Me. Things that I want in life, my priorities, everything about me has changed. I don't know how you can go through all of that and NOT change. I love differently, deeper. I appreciate the little things. I have a new category that I mentally place things in when I've done all I can do and it's still not working...Not My Problem. Reed thinks that if I have too much on my plate then I need to let some things go...like taking the girls to dance, or working at preschool. But those are the things that I WANT to do. Those are the things that I fought to be able to do. That's what makes me feel normal and happy. Those things don't stress me out...they relieve stress.
So counseling has been good...I feel like oncologists should make counseling part of their course of treatment. I'm finally feeling all the emotions I pushed aside. Everyone always said I had such a positive attitude through it all. And I did. I didn't try to, it just happened. But in doing that I didn't feel the things I should have felt. I put up a wall and painted happy faces and flowers and all kinds of happy pictures on it to keep out the feelings I should have been dealing with that weren't so happy and pretty. But the wall has come down and it feels good! I now understand that it's normal to feel these things. They're a little delayed, but at least they are working their way out.
Wow...that's a lot of talk about feelings;) All of this reminds me of a song...my brother used to sing it to Madison when she was a little fussy as a baby. It's called "It's all right to cry." Here are the words...


It's all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you
It's all right to cry
It might make you feel better

Rain drops from your eyes
Washing all the mad out of you
Rain drops from your eyes
They're gonna make you feel better

It's all right to feel things
Though the feelings may be strange
Feelings are such real things
And they change and change and change

Sad n' grumpy, down in the dumpy
Snuggly, huggly, mean n' ugly
Sloppy, slappy, hoppy, happy
Change and change and change

It's all right to know
Feelings come and feelings go
It's all right to cry
It might make you feel better

And now John Michael has his own little baby girl to sing that song to. Welcome to this crazy World, Eva Ann Arendts!!!

Reconstruction - Phase I

Wow...it's been a long time! But not too much has happened so there's not too much to catch up on. The big thing that's happened is reconstruction!
I went in on Tuesday and had the expanders put in and my port for chemo taken out. The expanders were put in to stretch the skin and muscle to make room for my new boobies. It's a process that takes a few months and some pretty painful days but the outcome will be worth it. I go back in a couple of weeks to have the expanders "pumped up." They will fill them up with saline every two weeks until either I say enough or the scar tissue won't allow them to stretch any further. Of course the first question everyone has is "How big will you go?" But I don't really have an answer because it all depends on the amount of scar tissue and how much pain I can actually handle. Each filling gets more and more painful. When all the fillings are done I'll have to leave the expanders in for a month or two to let everything settle and heal completely. Then I'll get the real implants and they'll cut away some more scar tissue to relieve some of the pressure. Then I'll have the best looking boobs in town:)
I've been really excited for this surgery and expected it to be pretty easy compared to what I've already been through. I even told Reed that he could leave a couple of days after the surgery to bring back the Kahuna from Massachusetts.
So here's the reality...it has been SO much easier than the first time. Not exactly a walk in the park but definately easier. This time I have no drains. I can't use my arms too much or my new boobs might pop out of place and end up on my shoulders. But that's not too bad. I'm already off my pain meds. I've taken showers and it's only been four days! Last time it was three weeks before I could take a shower! Reed did leave on Friday. Before any of you start thinking he's some dead beat husband you need to know that I told him to go. He didn't ask if he could. It was my idea. This boat being up north has really been weighing on him because he knows the longer he waits to bring it back the more trecherous the waters will be. He was worried about being iced in and not being able to leave. So I told him I would be fine...which I am...if he went.
The hardest part is my kids. I'm fine by myself. But I can't really take care of them. Especially Willa!!! Boy has she been a treat lately! Love her to pieces and I don't want her to change because one day she's going to kick some serious a*@, but my gracious! I can't even spank her!!! All I can do is watch her act like a crazy kid until she decides to stop. At least I've got my mom!!! My mom has been here everyday or she's had Willa with her. Tonight she's spending the night in case Willa wakes up...and she will...she always does!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's almost been a year since I first felt the lump in my breast. However, it wasn't until December 15, 2009 that I saw the doctor because I thought I'd wait and see what happened...would it go away on its own, did caffine have anything to do with it, would it come and go with my period. When I realized it wasn't going away or getting smaller, nor did I think it was getting bigger, I finally made an appointment to see my doctor on December 15th.

And then my life changed.

Since that day I have had 27 doctor appointments, 2 mamograms, 1 ultrasound, 2 MRIs, 2 bone scans, 2 CT scans, 1 chest X-Ray, 1 excisional biopsy, 1 ultrasound guided needle biopsy, 1 double mastectomy, 1 port put in my chest and 6 chemotheropy treatments. I already have 3 more doctor appointments and 1 surgery scheduled, and 2 more surgeries that need to be scheduled.

I have also had two MAJOR diagnosises. January 13th...Breast Cancer. July 15th...Remission.

That is one hell of a year!

It's been a really long time since I've given any kind of an update. So here goes...

I no longer feel like I'm eaten up with cancer. Before, anytime I had any kind of ache or pain I was convinced that it had spread to my bones or lymph nodes or my blood. I don't remember when I started feeling like I am cancer free...I just realized one day that I wasn't obsessing about cancer.

My hair has grown back. And no...it's not blond or curly. It's straight and just as dark as it was before, except there's a little more grey now. It's very thick and there's nothing I can do with it so far. But it's there! And my eyebrows and eye lashes have also come back.

Reconstruction will be underway soon. Here's how it works.
On November 16th I will go in for an outpatient surgery that should take about two hours to have expanders put in. Then, every two weeks I will take a trip to Greenville to have my boobs "pumped up." They will inject saline into these expanders to stretch the skin and muscle until either I decide they are big enough or they physically can't stretch anymore. The surgery is pretty easy but the expansion is supposed to be pretty painful, especially the last two or three. Then, I will leave the expanders in for a couple of months to let everything settle and relax. And then I get the real things. I'll have one last surgery to exchange the expanders for the impants. Then that whole phase of my life will be over!!!

So then there's the issue of the hystorectomy. Since my genetic testing showed that I have the mutated BRCA1 gene I have a fairly high chance of developing ovarian cancer before I'm 50. The easy answer is to just remove it ALL! Anything that can get cancer that can be removed, WILL be removed. But...I've decided that I want to complete the breast cancer saga before dealing with that. So, until that is all complete I will just see a GYN Oncologist every six months and have ultrasounds and a special blood test. The bad part is, although these are extra steps for detecting ovarian cancer they are not guaranteed, or even very reliable. That's why they call it the silent killer. There is no good test for early detection. So hopefully, I will have that surgery done next year...maybe in early June. But I've decided that I can't think about that until I get through this.

Now...how about some good stuff!!! I finally feel normal. I'm running around like a crazy person trying to keep up with Madison and Willa. Madison is now in Kindergarten and loves it! She is also taking ballet and tap on Thursdays. Willa goes to PMO at St. Andrew's on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and has Kindermusik on Thursdays. I am back at work...even though I feel like it's more fun than a "work"...at St Andrew's Preschool with the really little kids two mornings a week and I keep the cutest little girl, Heidi, on Tuesday afternoons. And I really feel like life is back to normal.

The thing that bothered me the most about the whole cancer thing is how much I missed out on. I missed the kids at preschool so much, I hated not being involved in Madison's school and dance, I hated that I missed birthday parties and girls nights out. I hated that it took such a huge effort to do anything for or with my family and friends. Basically, my world stopped while everyone else's world continued.

And now my world is moving again. I stay so busy that I actually think about how lucky I was to get a nap every day! I'm ready for reconstruction, even though this particular type of reconstruction wasn't my first choice. I have finally come to terms with it and I feel like it's the right choice for me and my family. I'm even excited about it! I think it's going to be pretty easy and I won't miss too of anything, just 1 - 2 weeks initially and a day or two here and there at the most!

Again...I can't thank everyone enough for all the postitive thoughts, kind and encouraging words, prayers, love and support that you have all given me through out my roller coaster ride with cancer. People say all the time that they don't know how I've gotten through it, but the truth is that everyone of you has had a significant roll in my battle and recovery, whether you know it or not. I would not have gotten through this without you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alice Kelly...what have you done to me?!?!?!?!

Wow!!! Yesterday was amazing! I love my husband...but he's not a gift giver. He never has been and I thought he never would be. I've just come to terms with getting a big fat nothing...not even a card...for my birthday, mother's day and our anniversary. And I'm OK with that. But yesterday he proved me wrong!
A few months ago after a little date night he told me of this big plan he had been thinking about. He wanted to take me and some girlfriends out for the Alice Kelly fishing tournament to celebrate the end of my treatment. For those of you that don't know, this particular ladies tournament is a fund raiser for the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group. There is no money to be won but there is a lot of money that goes to our community to help people going through the lovely journey of cancer. So it was very appropriate and extremely thoughtful for him to come up with this all on his own.
He has a very good friend that has a beautiful boat that he brought up from New Bern just for the tournament. He even took the family to the boat for a little over night trip. Madison and Willa thought it was really cool that they got to sleep on the "fancy boat" in their own room.
So yesterday was the big day. We left the dock at 6am with "Captain Ahab," Banks, Jeff and a few girls that are really special to me and helped me through some really tough times.
And it was spectacular! I know I'm not a Meredith by blood, but yesterday I felt like I was. I could LIVE out there! It was absolutely, 100% beautiful. Although I've been out there with Reed before it just confirmed for me why he does what he does. Our CPA is always questioning why he continues to do it even though in the long run we just break even...on a good year. But yesterday reiterated what I already knew...that Reed Meredith would shrivel up and die if he could not fish. I've always told my CPA that taking fishing away from Reed would be the equivalent of me taking away his adding machine. He wouldn't be able to survive! And now I remember why!
We had such a great time! Brandy was the rock star...with a huge Wahoo! She worked her booty off! And Reed was super proud of her. His exact words were, "What Brandy just did was f*@#&*^ notable!" And Reed doesn't just give out complements! She was a little sore today but we're all very proud of her!!!!
Other than one bite, that was all the fishing action happening on the Kahuna. But there was no place in this universe that I'd rather be! We had a blast and I'm secretly hoping this is the beginning of a new tradition. (Reed...if you are reading this...take note!!! You have set the bar high. Not only am I expecting to do this again, but so are a few other ladies:)"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Officially Cancer Free!!!

Today I got a call from Dr. White's office. (She's the oncologist.) She said that my bone scan was normal and I don't have to come in next week. She will see me in 3 months. So that...my dear friends...means I am officially cancer free!
A big thanks to all of my awesome friends and family for getting me through the most challenging time of my life! With your prayers, positive thoughts, kind words and generous hearts I've made it to the other side.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blood work doesn't lie!

Well...since I last wrote not much has changed. Things are still good and I'm moving on. I went yesterday for my follow-up scans (CT and Bone Scan.) While I was there I asked them to do a little blood work because I've been super tired lately. I've been taking naps every day and I'm still tired! So they did.
Usually, if someone calls me from their office it's a nurse. Well, today it was Dr. White, the oncologist. She said my hemoglobin was a little low but not too low. My Vitamin D level was low so she would call in a prescription for a Vitamin D supplement. However, my liver enzymes were elevated. This concerned her because so far all of my liver enzymes have been consistently normal. She had the results from my CT scan (but not my bone scan) and my liver looked fine. She said, "Did you have a glass of wine the night before?" Um...No. Maybe some beer....in a can....no glass!
I've waited so long! Since March 3rd I have only had two beers that one time at supper club! And so now I finally relax a little and have a couple of drinks and I get busted!?!?! I can't get away with ANYTHING!!!
I love you Dr. White. You helped saved my life. I trust you completely. Just understand that I need a beer...or two...at the end of the day. Please don't hold it against me.