This has been one hell of a week - literally. It's actually been even longer than that. I have been feeling awful nearly every day since the Friday after my surgery, ten days ago. I felt like a million bucks the week following surgery compared to how I have felt this past week. I have experienced everything from pain, soreness, fever, vomiting, body aches, migraines, nausea, and numerous GI issues that I will spare you the details of. I have only left the house twice in ten days (once to the doctor, and once to my support group), and I even spent three straight days completely in bed. This is by far the worst I have felt since that first round of chemo when my blood pressure plummeted for days.
The week after surgery, I was so surprised at how well I was doing. My first trip out of the house was to see Dr. F, my oncologist, for my routine follow-up that Thursday, which was six days post-op. Dr. F was very pleased with how well I was healing and how I was feeling in general. To be honest, I don't even remember everything we discussed because that day now seems like a lifetime ago. What I do remember is that after some discussion back and forth, I decided to get the flu shot. I have never been a fan of the flu shot because I never would get one and I would never get the flu - so I figured, why bother. Well now that I am still a bit "immunosuppressed", I wondered if I should get one. I still said, "watch, if I get a flu shot - I will get the flu", but I figured that I should be on the safe side and get it. Dr. F left it up to me but said that it wouldn't be a bad idea. My blood counts were in the safe range to get it if I wanted to. So, I went ahead and got the flu shot. This is what unfolded in the days to follow.....
So, I apologize for the delayed post, for not responding to emails or phone calls. I just haven't had the energy to do it. I am beyond grateful to my mom, Mike, and Doug in particular for being here with me day in and day out and doing anything they could to make me comfortable. Thank you to my brother for spending the day with me today and for my friends and family that have been checking on me.
I am praying that I feel much better this week. I have doctors appointments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and on top of that my mom and Doug are out of town for the week so I am on my own during the day. I am so thankful for our army of supporters that will still be here to drive me to appointments and check on me when Mike is at work. Please keep the prayers coming because I know I am not in the clear yet. Once this tummy settles down and I can get these other drains removed, I am sure I will feel like a brand new woman - I cannot wait!
As a side note...My amazing Momma's birthday is this Tuesday, November 1. Mom- I am so sad that I won't be with you on your birthday this year. But please know how much I love you and how grateful I am for you. In the past two weeks alone you have held my hand as I went into surgery, kissed my forehead as I woke up from the anesthesia, bandaged my incisions, administered my medicine, helped me get out of bed, bathed and dressed me, rubbed my back as I vomited, massaged my legs when they ached, and dried my tears as I cried out in frustration and sadness. And yet that is nothing compared to all you have done for me throughout the past 29 years. I love you so much and hope this birthday is the start of a happier year because you deserve it! I hope you have a wonderful day and are reminded of all of us that love you very much.
Thankfully, the Thursday after surgery before the flu set in, Mike and I were able to meet our adorable little Goddaughter. Sweet baby Alice was welcomed into this world on Tuesday, October 18 and we couldn't be more honored that our friends, Mike and Katie asked us to play such an important role in Alice's life. ♥
I was going to title this post, "Say hello to my little friends..." Haha, get it?! You have to say it in Al Pacino's voice from Scarface. I thought that was pretty funny considering I now have two new "friends", if you will. ;) But in all seriousness, I am doing just fine and wanted to get a quick update out to everyone to let you know that. Here is a pic from a few hours after surgery just to prove it to you....
The surgery went very well, without any complications and both Dr. B and Dr. M were very pleased. Surgery lasted almost 4 1/2 hours and then I spent another 2 hours in recovery while I came out from the anesthesia. After seeing the fam for a few minutes, I was transferred over to my room in another area of the hospital. I was still a little out of it so I felt a little confused when I heard Mike and my mom get all excited upon meeting someone in the hall heading down to my room. I remember asking the person pushing my stretcher who the woman was that they were talking to, but she didn't know. Well, a few seconds later when they all walked in the room, I realized what the excitement was about. It turned out that my nurse for the rest of the day was a friend of ours! Our friend, Hayley is married to one of Mike's good friends from college. I knew Hayley was a nurse at Beaumont but I didn't realize she worked in the unit where I would be, and I definitely never expected her to be my nurse. I was so happy to see her and to know that my nurse would be taking extra special care of me. There is a running joke between some of my friends - they say that Mike and I seem to know everyone and are running into someone we know everywhere we go - so I know you guys will find this story especially funny.
Well, of course Hayley took exceptional care of me and she is now elevated to an entire new level of friendship after doing things like emptying my Foley catheter bag. ;) Thank you so much, Hayley! It felt so wonderful to come out of surgery and see a familiar face taking care of me and I am so glad it was you. My other nurses and aides were great too, and I felt like I received wonderful care at Beaumont.
After sleeping for another few hours after surgery, I finally woke up and became lucid enough to see how I looked and gave myself a chance to see how I really felt. I definitely felt sore and had some pain but it wasn't as bad as I expected. I remained in bed the rest of the day and night, with my arms supported on pillows and as long as I didn't move, I felt nearly pain free. Mike, Mom, Doug, Jeff and my father in-law, Mike were all there to spend time with us and keep me company.
I didn't get much sleep Friday night in the hospital due to nurses coming in to give me pain meds, change my drains, take the catheter out, get me up to the bathroom, etc. Mike slept like a baby in the chair next to me. :) After Dr. B and Dr. M stopped by to see me in the morning, they said things looked good and I was all set to head home. We left the hospital around 10:30 on Saturday morning.
Since then, I have spent all day and night in our recliner in the family room downstairs. Aside from getting up to go into the bathroom, I have been laying down with my arms propped up, one drain coming out of my left armpit, two drains on the right, and tubes connected to a pain pump coming out from the middle of my chest. Mike and my mom have had to help me get in and out of the chair, and all of the repositioning that goes along with it which includes a pillow behind my head, one under each arm, a bolster under my knees, the two drains and pumped positioned in a specific way and then sheets and blankets on top of all of that. They have both been wonderful and I don't know what I would do without them. I truly don't know how anyone could do this without amazing help like I have from my mom and Mike.
I can't move my arms or trunk very much without discomfort but as long as I am just laying in my chair, I am doing just fine. It's crazy how little things like brushing my teeth have become difficult. But, my biggest challenge is going to be respecting the healing process and resting like I am supposed to. I am already getting antsy and a little stir-crazy in the house but I know my body just needs lots of time to rest and recover -I was quickly reminded of that after taking a shower tonight (with a TON of help!) and then feeling like I had just ran a marathon - totally wiped out! Back to the recliner I went.
All in all, I am feeling really good considering everything my poor body has been through lately - I truly anticipated feeling worse - and things look better than I thought too! I can't thank you enough for all of the thoughts and prayers for a safe and successful surgery - our prayers were answered and I am counting on the same for all of the prayers for a speedy recovery.
Thank you so much for all of the emails, texts, calls, meals, flowers, cards and deliveries. I truly feel so loved and cared for and that makes getting through these tough times so much easier. A special thank you to my amazing husband and momma - the best caregivers in the world - who seem to always know what I need before I even say it. Please keep them in your prayers as I know this isn't easy for them to see me going through this.
My life, as I knew it, became dramatically different nearly seven months ago when I received that dreaded phone call. I have had many hurdles laid out in front of me over the past few months and have done my best to take each one as it came, focusing all my energy on crossing that one specific hurdle, before looking onward to the next. It is the only way for me to do it - the only way to survive without being swallowed up in a sea of overwhelming worry and fear of the unknown. Taking one day at a time is the way I try to live my life now. Worrying about the next hurdle in my way only deters me from living in the moment and enjoying this day that God has given me.
So, when people ask me if I have been a nervous wreck about my upcoming surgery, the answer is definitely "no". I have not been worried or scared or fearing surgery. I have been busy doing a million other things and enjoying feeling good throughout these past few weeks since I have completed chemo. But once again, my life as I now know it, is about to undergo another major change. And now that this change will be taking place in less than 24 hours, I would be lying if I said I wasn't starting to get a little nervous about it.
I knew chemo would make me feel crappy but that would eventually pass - and it did. I knew losing my hair would be traumatic but that it would eventually grow back - and it did. I knew that losing my eye lashes and eye brows would look weird, but that they would grow back - and they did - although they are now falling out again! Darn it. ;) But there is no turning back with this. This is the first real permanent step. When it's done, it's done - and there is no coming back. I am nervous about how I will look, how I will feel, how I will adjust psychologically to losing such an obvious part of my body. But what I really keep thinking about is, "Will it ever feel the same again when Mike hugs me?" Every day before Mike leaves for work, he gives me a hug while I lay in bed - every evening when he gets home, he gives me a huge hug as soon as he walks into the house. It's the way we have always been. And now I fear that the numbness and loss of sensation that accompanies this procedure will rob me of fully feeling my husband's embrace every day. Logically I know that it's not the end of the world if I lose sensation across my chest - but I have learned to really cherish the little things, like the tight squeezes from Mike -and the thought of those hugs never again feeling the same, makes me sad.
Tomorrow morning I will be undergoing a right modified radical mastectomy and a left simple mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. I won't go into detail about the actual surgical procedure but if you would like to read more about what a mastectomy is, please click here, and to learn more about reconstruction, click here. The surgery will last about 4 1/2 - 5 hours which will involve my breast surgeon, Dr. B performing the bilateral mastectomy followed by Dr. M, my plastic surgeon, coming in after her to start the reconstruction process. There are a few reconstruction methods available, however a few of those did not end up being viable options for me. I do not have enough abdominal tissue to use my own skin, fat and muscle for the reconstruction, which is what occurs during a TRAM flap procedure - the most common type of breast reconstruction. Therefore, after discussing all options with Dr. M, we have decided that the best course of treatment for me is reconstruction with implants. The process is a long one, and not without risks but we are confident that this is the right path for me. To give you a better idea of what will be taking place, here is a rough outline of the steps involved:
Soooo.....do you see what I mean about taking one day at a time? It's just too much to think about otherwise. There are some definite risks to all of this, especially once I have radiation. There is about a 20% chance that the radiation could cause the tissue expander to fail which means I would have to have surgery to remove them and my only available option for reconstruction at that point would be a much more invasive and difficult surgery. Although I am very confident in my decisions and feel in my heart that this is my best course of treatment, it is not without risks and fear - I hope and pray everything goes as well as possible and that we can stick with our game plan.
I am asking once again for all of you to rally around us in love and prayer, just like you always do. Please keep all of us in your prayers - not only for me to come out of surgery safely, but also for Mike, Mom, Doug and Jeff as they will no doubt be worrying while they wait to make sure I am okay. Please say extra prayers for Dr. B, Dr. M, the anesthesiologist, nurses, and all other staff that will be part of my surgery and recovery.
Thank you so much for the frozen meals, comfy clothes, cards, and well wishes that so many of you have sent during these days leading up to surgery. I truly feel your love and support all around me and that's what will get me through this.
ps. Today is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day...there is still such a long way to go to research a cure and more effective treatments for this disease. To get a small glimpse of what metastatic breast cancer is like for the 155,000 of us living with it in the U.S please take a look at this short video
I was hoping to leave you with some gorgeous fall pics of my neighborhood but sadly yesterday's rain washed most of the leaves off of the trees. So instead, here's a look at my festive porch :)
What more could a girl ask for in one weekend....spending a ton of time with family and friends visiting from out of town, meeting a true inspiration in my life, supporting a wonderful local charity.....oh, and having my picture on the cover of the Detroit Free Press newspaper! Yeah, that's right...the cover!
First things first...a few months ago, I discovered the lovely Kris Carr was coming to speak in Rochester Hills. I couldn't believe it and my immediate thought was, "I don't care what I have going on, I have got to be there!" Some of you may be thinking, "That is so cool", and others may be thinking, "Who the heck is Kris Carr?" Well, for those of you that don't have the pleasure of knowing who Kris is, I will be happy to tell you a little about her. Kris is a New York Times best-selling author and a self proclaimed "Wellness Warrior". She also happens to be living with Stage IV cancer and has been kicking it's butt for the past nine years. I had a vague recollection of her TLC documentary entitled, "Crazy Sexy Cancer", which followed the beginning of her journey with the disease, but didn't know very much about her until after I was diagnosed. My friend, Nikki bought me Kris' book, "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips" and from the instant I started reading, I felt like she was speaking directly to me. Kris was 31 years old when she was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and was told she had no more than ten years to live. Everything she wrote about completely resonated with me - all of the unique issues that a young woman faces while battling this disease, especially one without a cure. I could identify with everything Kris wrote about and I knew right away that she was going to be a huge inspiration for me. After reading that book, I then read her "Crazy Sexy Diet Book", and became involved in her online community. Kris' website, Crazy Sexy Life is filled with a lot of health and wellness information and her online community, My Crazy Sexy Life is an amazing place to connect with thousands of other cancer survivors. There are over 200 different online support groups at My Crazy Sexy Life and my discovery of the metastatic breast cancer group has been an absolute Godsend for me.
I am so grateful that I have so much support from the incredible community of breast cancer survivors. And I am also thankful to belong to support groups specifically for young adults, but "meeting" my online friends of the metastatic breast cancer group has filled a huge void for me. The most difficult aspects of this disease for me are those that deal with coming to grips with a Stage IV diagnosis - wrapping my head around living my entire life with cancer, and living with the fear that this disease will take me away from those I love well before I am ready - those are issues that others just can't understand. No matter how well intentioned someone is, whether they are a cancer survivor or not, there are aspects of my life that only these women, and others dealing with metastatic disease can truly understand. Having this support group of amazing, positive, and optimistic women has been a huge comfort to me and ultimately, I have Kris Carr to thank for that.
I have always been dumbfounded when watching people (usually teenagers) lose their minds when meeting a celebrity - like the girls that would scream, cry, and pass out at a Michael Jackson concert just because they were in his presence. Well, although there was no screaming or passing out, I did become extremely emotional upon meeting Kris. I tried to choke back tears as she signed my two books, but soon they were streaming down my face as I desperately tried to quickly explain to her what a huge impact she has had in my life. It was like an out of body experience, where I sat back and watched myself thinking, "get ahold of yourself - you are acting like a crazy fool!" - but something came over me and I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was meeting someone that is considered a "celebrity" in some circles, but because this person has truly made a huge positive impact in my life. To me, Kris represents inspiration, motivation, optimism, positivity, self-advocacy, and most of all, she represents HOPE. And that means everything to me.
If you or anyone you know could benefit from a tremendous resource in the battle against cancer, please direct them to Kris' books or website. It is a wealth of information and support, not only for those of us with cancer, but for anyone that is seeking a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthier life. To watch a quick video to learn more about the fabulous Kris Carr, please click here.
Kris was in Michigan as the keynote speaker for The Pink Fund. This luncheon was a fundraiser for this great organization which raises money to help financially support women while they battle breast cancer. To learn more about The Pink Fund, click here.
After a wonderful afternoon at The Pink Fund luncheon with Momma Jan, I headed to the Callaghan Family Picnic for the remainder of the day. I am so extremely blessed that I absolutely adore Mike's family and love spending time with them. I have been a part of the their family for nearly 13 years now and they have always treated me as one of their own. I love Mike's aunts, uncles, and cousins as if they are my blood relatives and I had a fabulous time with them Saturday afternoon, Saturday night watching the Tigers game, and on Sunday at our house while a group of us cheered on the Lions and the Tigers!
I woke up on Sunday morning at 7:30am to the sound of my phone ringing. It was Julie, one of my very best friends, and upon answering I realized she was crying. She was crying tears of joy and pride as she saw the Detroit Free Press article featuring yours truly. I was so touched and immediately so excited to get my hands on a copy. Mike immediately headed out to the store and hurried back home with a huge stack of newspapers. I couldn't believe it when I saw my face on the actual cover of the paper! And then to see a full page picture of my mug on the cover of the Health + Food section! I was blown away. After I turned the page I saw the wonderful article by Patricia Montemurri and a huge spread of information honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I honestly did not realize what a huge feature this was going to be and I was completely shocked.
Just "a few" of the papers Mike bought...he's a proud hubby and went a little overboard
Cover of the Health + Food section
Two page spread inside the Health + Food section along with a lot of other great information regarding types of breast cancer, how to complete self breast exams, mammograms, and other helpful screening information.
The main article is also featured on the Detroit Free Press website, and you can read it here. Thank you so much to all of our family and friends that contacted us to share their excitement with us on Sunday. The happiness for me is not seeing my name or picture in the paper (if you know me, you know I pick apart every picture of myself anyways), but it is in the thought that perhaps this article can help just one other person. Perhaps it can lead someone to early detection to save themselves from going through this, or maybe it can help someone that has been diagnosed realize that life goes on, and that although the journey is a difficult one, it can also be amazingly fulfilling and meaningful.
ps. I planned on completing this post last night, but late in the afternoon I received an amazing text message. A friend of mine from high school, Kevin, texted Mike and I to ask if we wanted tickets to the Tigers playoff game against the New York Yankees! Um, hello...of course we did!!! If you don't know us personally then you might not know what huge baseball fans we are - Mike in particular. Kevin has a friend on the Yankees (Chris Dickerson) and he hooked us up with his tickets in the Yankees family section! In one word- AMAZING! We were 26 rows behind home plate with an incredible view of all of the action. We were just a few rows behind Jeter's parents & Granderson's parents, one section over from former Detroit Red Wings, Chris Osgood and Kris Draper and Detroit Red Wing, Mike Commodore was sitting in the seat immediately behind me. It was nuts! But the best part was cheering on the Tigers as they scored another victory over the Yankees! Thank you so much to Kevin (and Chris Dickerson) for the fabulous tickets!
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