Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, They're Fake, The Real Ones Tried to Kill Me

Last week on Thursday I had my breast reconstruction surgery!

It was a three hour surgery that consisted of removing my temporary expander implants and replacing them with permanent silicone implants. Then my plastic surgeon harvested some fat from my thighs to put around the implants to fill in gaps and make my breasts look my natural since I have zero breast tissue after the double mastectomy.

The surgery went really well and my recovery is coming slowly but surely. My chest is super sore and tight but already looks a lot better than before the reconstruction. My thighs where they harvested the fat are so bruised and sore but already feeling less sore. My plastic surgeon and his team are the best, and our family friend who's was my anesthesiologist again did a great job.

I've had the last few days off work and hope to return to work in a couple of days. I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs for four weeks, which means no picking up Elise, which has been emotionally tough already. Luckily I have great help lined up for Elise. I am so thankful for my family and friends.

I hate feeling pained and helpless again but hopefully this is my last surgery and the pain is not near as bad as the mastectomy and I survived that.

I think when all is said and done I need to get this shirt...

Love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pregnant with Cancer?

Recently I've had a couple of comments from people who have found my blog and are pregnant with breast cancer. But I've not been able to respond to them because I don't have emails or any way of contacting them.

So if you're pregnant with breast cancer and ever want to chat with me via email, phone, etc. please email me at abumpandalump {at} gmail.com . I've done a ton of research about pregnancy and breast cancer and even have some private groups online that I can add you to connect with women in the same situation.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One year and making each day count

The one year anniversary of my diagnosis was on March 1.

On my "cancer-versy" I met up with a young, local mom who is also TNBC survivor to spend the day at the zoo with our little girls. She was diagnosed when her daughter was six weeks old. (Note: WHY is this terrible disease happening to many beautiful, young women? I wish I had millions of dollars to pour into research to understand what's causing this? I hate cancer so much). Then that evening Jonathan I ordered Thai food, drank wine, and hung out with Elise -- thanking God that we'd survived this year.

I've spent a lot of the day thinking about the prayers God answered this year, how much I've been through, and how much I've changed. My faith in God is so much stronger, I think much less about the distant future, and I focus on appreciating the things in life that really matter. March 1, 2013 was such a horrible day that I honestly feel blessed just to have made it through that day and the 364 that followed.

Here is Elise on March 1, 2014. What a difference a year makes.
God, I love this girl.

Shortly after I was diagnosed I found a private, online group that is called the "Kick Ass Cancer Mamas." All of us were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or with young children (the majority of us with breast cancer). Several women in this group have been and are an amazing resource for me. They've given me encouragement, medical advice, prayers, group therapy, and so much more.

This week I learned that one of my TNBC sisters from the group now has metastasis to the liver. Also known as Stage IV breast cancer. She was declared cancer free a year ago but the f*ing cancer is back. I'm just so mad and sad that this happened to her. Did I mention that I hate cancer?! (Note: If you want to read more and contribute to her fund, go here.)

Hearing that her cancer is back has made me examine my life yet again. So often I feel like I've beat this beast and can move on, but then there are times like this when I wonder if I'm just living on borrowed time and the cancer will return to get me any day. But then I remember that the reality is, all of us are living on borrowed time. I'm just more keenly aware of it at the young age of 30. All us will die someday and give an account of our lives to God. There is no way around that, so you gotta make each day count. 

I actually feel pretty darn good these days, so every morning I tell myself "today, I am healthy" and aim to make each day count. I do this by...
  • Cherishing every moment with Elise, even when she is up in middle of the night.
  • Working hard at my job to make good money so that we can pay for Jonathan's master's degree and he can have a great career like I do.
  • Seeing my family and extended family as much as I can.
  • Looking for opportunities to serve and help people with my time, prayers, or resources. 
  • Keeping in contact with friends, both new and old, and finding quality time to spend together. Every weekend I try to see someone (or multiple someones) that I care about.
  • Telling my story as much as I can so that people will see the power of God and His ability to answer prayers. If you read my prayer request page, you'll be amazed at just how many specific prayers God has answered over the course of this year. I want people to see that when times get tough God will provide emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus said in John 16, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." After this year I know that this statement is true, and my prayers is that others do too. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

39 weeks in, 39 weeks out

Elise has now been here as long as she was inside of me!

Then: Just shy of 39 weeks pregnant. Now: Just shy of 39 weeks old
She's gained 14 lbs since her birth day and I've lost 26 lbs.

I've gotten say, these last 9 months have been way, way better than the 9 before it. I love seeing my little girl grow up. Every single day with her a gift from God.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Will you have more kids?

This is a question that a lot of people ask me, so I thought I'd address it on the ole blog...

The answer is complex.

First, I need to wait until I'm NED (no evidence of disease) for three years before I can consider another pregnancy. That will make me 33 (and Elise 3). I simply cannot risk the cancer returning while I'm pregnant again because I'd basically have to choose between my life and the fetus' life if it came back. In December I got an IUD to make sure I don't get pregnant accidentally (btw I love it).

Secondly, chemo can cause infertility for a woman of my age about 25% of the time. There are tons of stories of young breast cancer survivors going on to have multiple kids after chemo but it's not a sure thing. I did get my periods back just a few weeks after finishing treatment which is a good sign!

Thirdly, I have a pretty rough time getting pregnant with Elise. It took one pregnancy loss and 1.5 years to get pregnant with her. I actually was doing acupuncture and herbs for two months to boost my chances of getting pregnant when I got the positive pregnancy test (so it worked!). But I'm clearly not the most fertile person in the world.

Fourth, emotionally I think another pregnancy would be really tough. I've never had an easy, normal pregnancy. For the first 14 weeks of my pregnancy with Elise I was worried I'd lose her (because I'd lost a baby before) and then for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy I was battling cancer. Just the thought of all the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with being pregnant makes my heart race.

So sounds like my answer is "no", right? Not exactly...

If in three years I'm feeling healthy and if somehow we manage to get pregnant with me being sub-fertile and potentially chemo-damaged, then we'd be overjoyed to welcome another baby. But I'm not banking on all that happening because, as you can see, there are a lot of ifs in that sentence. 

I thank God multiple times a day that we have healthy, happy, sweet Elise. She is a true miracle. I know people throw that term around for babies, but she really is a miracle straight from God. And if she's our only child I am more than OK with that. I am an only child and actually really enjoyed/enjoy being an only child.

So I guess what I'm saying is that in 2.5 years, we'll likely be open to having one more child and at that point we'd just trust God to decide if family grows.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Hair & Other Updates

Thanks everyone for the love on my hair post. I did end up getting it cut and dyed and I like it a A LOT better.
Straight from the salon, loving it!

I went with a warm brown and I'm loving the color. Now i just need it to grow a little bit and my pixie will look pretty good.

My sweet baby girl is now 8.5 months. How did this happen?! I'm loving this age so much, I wish I could just bottle her up! She's wearing 12 month clothes now and weighs around 21 lbs and she's tall (I'll find out the exact inches in a few weeks). Chemo didn't growth restrict her one bit! She's going to be tall like her mom and dad.

My little love


When I was pregnant with Elise I set out to complete all the photo album/digital scrapbooks I was behind on. I did 2010-2011 when I was pregnant with her and have now finished 2012-2013! I'm all caught up. Wahoo! In a strange way it gives me a little comfort that if for some reason I'm not around when Elise is older, she'll have these memories of her family from before she was born and when she was a baby.
Collage of some of the 2012 album

I'm feeling pretty good overall. My chest and upper back and left armpit still hurt. Not bad pain, just consistent nagging pain. I know this from the mastectomy, lymph node removal, and implants. It's just annoying. I'll be having my next reconstruction surgery in May (more on that later) so I'm hoping that helps reduce some of the chest pain.

If you have a moment please say a prayer for my continued health. I'm now 6 months cancer-free. I need to make it 2.5 more years before I'm really "out of the woods." I feel really optimistic about my prognosis and life, but I'd appreciate the prayers nevertheless.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Hairy Situation

It's a rite of passage every cancer/chemo survivor must go though -- the regrowing of the hair. And I think about 95% of us absolutely hate the process.

Basically, I like my hair blond, long, and straight.

Like this:
July 2009. For the record, I did dye my hair frequently and straighten my hair daily to achieve this look.

I don't care what you tell me about liking my  my current length, texture, color -- I do not currently like my hair. One bit. No matter what I do to it.

I've tried just embracing the wild natural curls. Like this...

This look kind of works in Hawaii. Kind of. 5.5 months post-chemo.

I've tried blow drying and flat-ironing the curl out of it and turns out it's just not the curl I hate...
A whole heck of a lot of straightening went into this mess. #notworthit. 6 months post-chemo.

What I do on most days is try to use a crap-load of product (gel, hairspray, fixation goo, etc.) to get my hair to stay down but it still has some waves/texture and isn't an unruly mess. And this is what I end up with...
Try not to be envious of how awesome my hair is mmmk? 6 months post-chemo.
Note: If you tell me about some hair product that's awesome that I should use and blah blah blah. Stop. I'm not buying it. I have no money and I'm sick of buying hair products that don't do much to change what I dislike.

The one thing I can do something about is the color. So I'm getting it dyed to tomorrow. Just to warm up the mouse-brown and cover my few greys. Maybe that will put me in a better mood about it.

The rest only time can fix. A lot of time. *Sigh* 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Living Life

I can't believe my last update was about two months ago! Since then we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. We also went on a big family trip to Hawaii to celebrate being cancer-free!

Aloha!
I've fully entered the "survivorship" phase of cancer recovery. Where I'm trying to live life as "normal" but everything has changed...

Every ache, pain, or lump still scares the heck out of me. Recently I was worried I had a lymph node recurrence but both my surgeon and oncologist assured me that the lumpiness in my armpit is just scar tissue from the four lymph nodes they removed. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I just have to trust God with my life and trust that right now, the cancer is gone, and with His grace it will stay gone forever.

I'm less focused on the "am I going to live another year" thoughts I had in the beginning and find myself more focused on the superficial ways that cancer messed up my life. I fret about how I don't like my short, curly, brown hair. I hate the way my foobs (fake boobs) look in most swimsuits and some tops. I think about how I can't wait until I get my final implants and my hair grows out to a length where I can straighten it again.

This week I've started back to work. Already I'm trying to navigate how I balance work and the life I want to have. A life where I still work hard, but find enough time to focus on exercise and diet, and even more importantly, on faith and family.


I guess there's no playbook for how to live life after you've played ding-dong-ditch with death. I'm just trying to appreciate every day and live a life of joy, not fear.