Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Radiate Me

Despite my amazing pathology report from surgery and the great job the chemo did in kicking the cancer's butt, I'm still going to be doing radiation.

So, why radiation if there are likely no living cancer cells left?

Because there still could be a few rouge cancer cells left around the chest wall or lymph node areas that surgery didn't find and chemo didn't kill. So radiation is the final weapon in our arsenal to kill any potential cells left. Also, I did have at least one positive lymph node before chemo which often means radiation is often recommended in that case. And because I'm young and have triple negative breast cancer which is known to be aggressive, all three of my oncologists recommend not skipping radiation, so I'm doing it.

I'll have 6 weeks of radiation starting in early October. I'll go every day, Monday through Friday to have my left breast area and lymph node area around it radiated. The actual radiation takes less than 10 minutes each day; the annoying part is going every day.

The radiation is only to one area of my body, so usually the side effects are minimal. There is some burning to the skin (like a bad sunburn) and some people experience a lot of fatigue. But it's nowhere close to as bad as chemo in terms of side effects.

Sometimes radiation can cause problems for breast reconstruction. So I'm definitely praying that doesn't happen. But if it does, I'll deal with it. I'm less concerned with having perfect breasts than I am at being able to live to see Elise grow up.

Once I start radiation I'll do another post about what it's like and how it's going. You can read more about radiation and watch a video about it here if this topic interests you. I know radiation isn't portrayed in the movies/TV shows for cancer treatment like chemo is, so most people have no idea what it is.

What radiation looks like. That's not me.

Once I finish radiation I'm DONE with all cancer treatments. It will be so amazing to finally be done! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Surgery, recovery, surgery

I realized I never posted about how the actual surgery went besides being declared cancer free! So I'll post about that and how recovery is going now.

My actual surgery was great. I had the dream team of my breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist (who's a great friend of the family), and nurses. One of my nurses was actually a good friend of mine's mom! They all did a phenomenal job. They told my family that my surgery was routine and textbook. 

Then I recovered in Scripps hospital for 2 nights. The nurses there were super sweet and took great care of me. Since then I've been recovering at home and my parents house near mine. It's hard because my arms are super immobile and I just feel uncomfortable a lot. I can't do anything for Elise since I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 lbs for 4 weeks. So Jon and my parents have been doing a great job keeping her happy and healthy. 

All was going pretty well until this Wednesday when I had a hematoma (broken blood vessel) pop up out of nowhere on my upper left chest. I went straight to my plastic surgeon's office and he decided it needed surgery. So later that day I was back in the OR under anesthesia (our awesome anesthesiologist friend did it again). After 30 mins they found the bleeder, fixed it, and I was back in recovery. Now I'm feeling ok minus a lot of soreness on my left side and the stupid surgical drain that I have on that side still (my right drain is out!). 

And since everyone asks me about reconstruction, so here is the deal... When you have a mastectomy you have zero breast tissue left, so they can't just put an implant on your chest like a boob job since there is nothing to hold it. So during my mastectomy the plastic surgeon put expanders behind my chest muscles. Now over several weeks he will slowly fill those expanders until I start radiation. Then several months after radiation he will replace the expanders with silicon in another surgery. So it's a long process. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm a Survivor

Today, I received the amazing news that I am cancer free!

In fact, I was cancer free before surgery because I had a what's called a "complete response" to chemotherapy. The chemo killed all the cancer in my breast and lymph node. Not one cell remained! We are just ecstatic. 

My surgeon called it a medical miracle. I called it a giant answer to prayer. This is exactly what I prayed for again and again over the last 5 months. And many, many others prayed for that as well. Thank you prayer warriors. God is faithful.

My surgeon removed 4 lymph nodes. 1 showed evidence of "dead cancer" (i.e. scar tissue) and the other 3 showed no cancer at all. This is another huge answer to prayer because I didn't want to have many lymph nodes removed because that puts you at more risk of lymphadema.

The original breast tumor was just scar tissue. Amazing! I could not be happier. 

So, no more "bump" because we have Elise and no more "lump" because the lump was killed by chemo and then chopped off. I guess I should change my blog name! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Surgery Tomorrow

Early tomorrow morning I head into surgery for my double mastectomy.

I have such mixed emotions as I head into surgery. I'm relieved the day is finally here and I can be one big step closer to beating this cancer. I'm nervous about the pain and the limitations during my recovery. I'm hopeful that the pathology report will show little to no cancer left. And I'm scared to death the pathology report will show that 5 months of chemo didn't really work and I'm basically out of options.

Obviously I so appreciate your prayers for a great surgery tomorrow. But I really covet your prayers for August 8 when I get the pathology report. It just has to show that the chemo worked and that very little cancer is left. I just keep praying and praying it will be good and God will show his glory through me beating this cancer. But even if the pathology report is bad, I vow to keep fighting. I won't let that crush my spirit or my resolve.

Also, just a quick update on my last post. Elise's kidney ultrasound was good. It showed a very minor issue with her right kidney that will very likely resolve as she grows. We just have to do a follow up x-ray next month to give us the info we need to find the best course of action to prevent future UTIs. Most importantly our pediatrician assured us that Elise is going to be just fine no matter what. Thank you for the prayers for her.

"My shirt says I'm a sweetheart but I'm a tough cookie like my mom!"