Monday, June 24, 2013

Surgery Scheduled & Prayers Requested

Last week we met with my surgical oncologist and scheduled my surgery. 

I'll be having a double mastectomy on August 6.

(Hey, if it's good enough for Angelia Jolie, it's good enough for me! Kidding.)

During the mastectomy my surgeon will remove all of the breast tissue from both breasts as well as few lymph nodes from my left arm pit (where they know there were cancerous cells at one point). A pathologist will then analyze all of that tissue to find out how much cancer remains. My big big prayer is that zero live cancer cells will be found when they do the pathology report after the mastectomy. I'd appreciate any prayers you can give me for that as well.

I'm not that scared about the surgery itself. I know it's the best choice I can make to increase the odds that I'll be here for Jonathan and Elise for a long time. I know I'm tough and can handle the pain. But I am a little scared to get those pathology results. If there is no remaining cancer my prognosis is very good. If there is a lot of cancer left, my prognosis is pretty bad. So the results of this surgery really is the "moment of truth" after months of treatment. It will also determine what scans and treatment I should do next.

Also because they have to remove some of my lymph nodes, I'm at increased risk for lymphedema (permanent arm swelling). So, please pray that my surgeon will not have to remove many lymph nodes and that I will not get lymphedema.

As far as "looks" go... I'll be doing temporary breast reconstruction at the time of surgery and then a permanent reconstruction about 8 months later. I have a wonderful plastic surgeon who assures me I can have "great" results when all is said and done. But please don't call this a "free boob job" -- unlike a boob job, reconstruction after mastectomy requires two lengthy surgeries as well expanding the pectoral muscle over several procedures so the implant has someplace to go. Basically it's painful, lengthy, and not that fun. Oh yeah, and I had to have cancer to get it.

So there you go. Surgery is in six weeks. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

75% done with Chemo!

Today I had my second of four Taxol chemos. This means I'm 75% done with chemo overall! I plan on being completely cured and never having to do chemo again, but obviously I appreciate your prayers for the same.

Here is my Dad, who was chemo buddy today, with Elise before we left. Note my Dad's awesome Race for the Cure shirt. Elise stayed home but wore pink in support of me. :)

I love my support team

The Taxol infusion took a long time but was easy. They give me steroids to take the night before so I didn't sleep much last night which was probably the worst part. After the last Taxol I was really achy in the back and legs for a few days, so I'm anticipating that side effect again. But other than that, my Taxol side effect were not too bad.

Speaking of side effects, check out my hair growth. I have stubble! I was off chemo for 6 weeks to deliver Elise, so my hair started to grow back. But now that I've been back on Taxol for 2 weeks I expect it to start falling out again this weekend. Womp womp. On a positive note, now I know what I'll look like in 13 weeks.

Navy recruit?
I have some more medical updates about next steps in treatment, but I'll save those for a later post and leave you with some adorable pictures of Elise (the real reason you come to this blog!).

Passed out in the carseat
In her bunny chair that she loves
Just hanging out with Dad

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Elise's Birth Story

I wanted to write Elise’s birth story up so that: 1) We’d have it and I wouldn’t forget all the details 2) I could share it with any “birth story” junkies out there. So, sorry this is a bit long.

I’ve always rolled my eyes a little bit when I hear people say that “God was in details”, but for Elise’s birth He really was. I just keep thinking about how great everything went and I know it God’s blessing around us and Elise. Thank you if you were one of the hundreds of people praying for us. We know that God hears our prayers.

OK, here’s the story…

A few days before Elise was born I had a ton of conversations with my OB and Oncologist about the pros and cons of inducing. Basically my oncologist was worried about me off chemo for too long.  Finally we came to the conclusion that at almost 39 weeks Elise was big enough and her lungs were mature enough to be induced.  My OB warned me that the induction could take a while, especially for a first-time mom, but that was a risk I was willing to take. So we chose Thursday, May 30th as our induction date. 

The morning of the induction we called the hospital to make sure they were ready for us (they were), we took a final picture of me pregnant, grabbed out bags, and headed to Panera for a last meal (since you can’t eat during an induction). 
38w5d - final preggo picture
We arrived at the hospital 9:00 AM and checked into our large corner birthing room. We met our sweet Nurse, Eva (who is also a believer). Then they took my blood and hooked me up the fetal monitors and IV. They sent my blood to the lab to make sure I was well enough to be induced. The OB on duty checked my cervix and it was high and closed. No cm dilated.  Bummer. The good news was that Elise’s head was way down in my pelvis. So after the blood work cleared at 11:00 AM the OB started me on drug to dilate my cervix called misoprostol. She said she’d come back to check me at 3:00 PM. She warned us that it could be a long induction since my cervix was so closed. 
Elise, you are getting evicted.

So then we waited. Played games on the iPads, read magazines, etc. I started to feel some minor contractions but nothing bad. We texted my parents to give them the update and they decided they’d come to the hospital at around 4:00 PM to see me and take Jonathan to dinner.

The OB came back at 3:30 PM and checked  my cervix. 2 cm dilated. Progress! She decided I could entering real labor here based on contractions and decided to not give me more Misoprostol or start Pitocin. That maybe my body would just do it on my own. My parents arrived a little while later as I was starting to have more contractions really low. We still figured real labor was hours away, so my Dad and Jon left for dinner around 4:30 PM and my Mom stayed to keep me company.

At around 5:00 PM my contractions started to get really close together and by 5:30 I was begging for pain relief. But I wasn’t sure how dilated I was so I didn’t want to get the epidural too soon.  They checked and I was 4 cm. I felt good about getting the epidural then. By 6:00 PM my epidural was placed I started to feel better. Then I started to feel worse, way worse. Terrible low stabbing pains (contractions), one after the other. I kept saying “this shouldn’t be how I feel on an epidural, should it?”
In pain but still smiling

Unfortunately right around 6:30 PM there was shift change a new anesthesiologist came in. He felt like maybe the epidural was placed wrong and wanted to re-do it. Thank goodness my Mom said “no” to that idea and had him load it up with more meds, because there probably would not have been enough time to remove and place a new epidural before I had to push. They also checked my cervix and I was already 7cm dilated (whoa!),  which was why I was in desperate need of more drugs. The anesthesiologist also gave me another pain drug in the IV (more on that later) to work quickly since I was in such pain (major cuss words and almost crying at this point).

Finally after more drugs in the epidural I was feeling great. My cervix got checked again and I was 8 cm and entering transition. My Mom started desperately calling my Dad and Jon telling them “get back here! She’s gonna start pushing soon!!” They’d been having a three-course Thai dinner.

Jon got back to the hospital at 7:00 PM and it was basically time to start pushing. Because the anesthesiologist gave me that drug in my IV they were worried Elise would come out lethargic from it since it takes two hours to wear off. So the whole pediatrics team was called to the room to make sure she’d be ok.  Since my hospital UCSD is teaching hospital, an intern, a resident, and Dr. were put in place in deliver Elise. My parents went out the waiting room and it was just Jon and I with all the Drs and nurses. 

I was finally fully numb from the waist-down thanks to the glorious, now-working epidural when I started to push a little bit after 7:00 PM. My amniotic fluid had still not broken and Drs were all worried about it bursting on them, so they had full plastics masks on. Hilarious. (side note: I guess a baby being born in their amniotic sack is rare very good luck in many cultures). I pushed for about 40 minutes while they monitored Elise’s heart rate. It dropped pretty low a few times but not enough to warrant concern. I couldn’t feel anything, so I kept asking the Drs “am I doing this right?” They assured me I was. They could see Elise’s full head of hair. Which was wonderful to hear because we felt assured that my placenta did it’s job and shielded her from all of the chemo drugs.

Finally on a contraction my water broke and did not make the giant mess that was predicted, and on the next push Elise was out! Elise cried immediately and it was the best sound I’ve heard in my life. They placed on her on my chest while Jon cut the cord.

Pure joy

Then they had the pediatrics team take her and do a quick exam to make sure she was fine from that drug I got. She was 100% fine and active. She scored a 9 and a 9 on her APGARs. Amazing score for any baby, let alone one who went through chemo, was induced, and got a little too much pain drugs. She weighed 7 lbs, 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Perfect size.


The doctors then placed her back on chest for skin-to-skin love and for me to feed to her a bottle of breast milk from the San Jose Milk Bank. My parents also came back into the room to meet Elise.
The Grandparents

The doctors all could not believe how quickly I dilated and how short of a time I pushed for. Basically the entire process from getting the first misoprostol drug for dilation to Elise being born was just under 9 hours. Heck, Jon almost missed the pushing because I dilated so much in just a few hours.
Family of 3

I said how God was in the details and here is what I mean…  I prayed so hard and had many others praying for short delivery, healthy baby, and no c-section. I got all of those about as perfectly as possible. The fact my Mom just arrived to be there with me during the worst pain and to be coach was ideal. How the epidural debacle ended just fine. I loved how Elise stayed in her fluid the whole time – it made feel like “protection” was around her for the entire process. I only had a very minor tear from delivery, so I could resume chemo quickly. But most importantly Elise was healthy and was able to go home with us 36 hours after being born.

Heading home

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chemo #5/Taxol #1 - Complete!

On Wednesday I started my latest round of chemo. I'm now getting a new chemo drug, called Taxol, which is different than chemo drugs I got before Elise was born. I'll do three more rounds of Taxol over the next seven weeks.

Here I am at my appointment.  
Fight On!
Yes, I know I just I had a baby, but don't act so shocked that I'm back in chemo already. The whole reason we induced early was so I could get back to chemo faster and fight this cancer so Elise has a Mom for decades to come. I wish my fight ended with Elise being born but we're really just in the 4th inning or so in beating this cancer (see treatment plan).

In case you're wondering, this is what a Taxol infusion looks like:
Drip, drip, drip

Taxol is supposed to be pretty effective for TNBC, so my big prayer is that I have complete response to it and there is no cancer left when I have my surgery in August.

I'm still working on Elise's birth story, so stay tuned for that. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Elise is here!

Our daughter, Elise Victoria, arrived on May 30 just before 8:00 PM.

She scored a 9 on her APGAR and is a healthy, normal, perfect baby. I cannot stop thanking God that she's here and healthy.

She weighed 7 lbs 14 oz, and was 20.5 inches long.

Just moments after birth

Elise means consecrated to God and Victoria means victory. 

Many more pictures and a birth story will be coming to this blog soon. But basically I had the most ideal induction ever. God was in every detail. Another huge answer to prayer.
Heading home. You can see her full head of HAIR. Way more hair than me right now. :)