Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Port is OUT

Before Port Removal: After Port Removal:

This is sort of where it was positioned in me, except the tube went up my chest further and into a vein in my neck (I couldn't get the tube to cooperate for the photo)

This is the actual port that was in me - I photographed it next to a cereal spoon for perspective. I was surprised to see that it's purple - so pretty!!
I drove over to mom's around 8:45 this morning, then we drove to Royal Columbia Hospital for my check-in time of 10:30. They got me in there and laying on the bed and basically all prepped and ready to go, and then came in and told me that an emergency has bumped me so I have another hour to kill. But in the meantime, they had given me two Adavan which I learned is the equivalent of 10 valiums. So when they suggested I go away for awhile and get a bite to eat, they wouldn't let me go unless I was in a wheelchair. So mom pushed me to the coffee shop and I had some sushi & soup for lunch, then wheeled back to the room so I could snooze while waiting.
Very little if any sleep had been achieved by me last night. So snoozing wasn't a bad thing - unfortunately, this other emergency didn't take as long as I thought it would and the guy came in needles ablazing when I was still snoozing from the happy pills. The only pain was from the freezing needles - and some pushing & tugging on my chest and voila - one port taken out and then my incision stitched up. No waterball for a few days though.... bummer!
It seems stupid now that I've already done it, however, I was THE most nervous about this process than I have been about any of the others I've had as yet. No fear or nerves for the mastectomy, tissue expander replacement or even the insertion of the port (likely because of all the REAL sedation you get). But, I got through it and it was not bad. Probably the Happy Pills helped relax me a lot.
Then I had my heart scan at 3:15 - mom was a good chauffeur today (my mother is an excellent driver). Hopefully this one isn't a dud.
And that's the last of it until March - so Cam and I are going back to California with the dogs to take advantage of the lag time before my final reconstruction.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My final treatment

So, I know I'm a little late on this, but I was hoping to have more specific info to report regarding my final surgeries etc. before I posted regarding my final treatment.

It was Thursday, January 13 at 4pm. I dragged Cam along with me since it was 'the final one'..... As I had mentioned previously, I wasn't feeling particularly emotional or worried or anything really. I had a nurse that I'd had once before but didn't know very well - but she was still very nice. We had an interesting conversation about how she used to be 'needle averse'. How the hell does someone with a serious needle aversion become a chemo nurse? She was unable to give an IV for the first part of her career. You have to admire someone's dedication to stick to a profession like nursing when she is unable to start an IV. But, she worked her way through it and now gives IVs like a pro. (not to me, of course, since we were still using my port)

Which, I did think to take a picture of while hooked up - so this is me at chemo.....

In a 'normal' circumstance, I would not be publishing the first photo for all the world to see as I don't believe it is one of the more flattering ones ever taken of me - however, I felt it was important to commemorate this day. Wish I would have looked a little more closely at it so I could have adjusted my sitting position to look slightly less slovenly and well.... wide. Although I AM working on that portion so I can be as slim as possible before my reconstruction surgery. And I weighed in at TOPS this past Thursday and had lost 5 pounds from before Christmas.... that's pretty good over the holidays!!! But, I digress.....

I also included a photo of Cam at my final treatment.... why does he look so unhappy? He isn't the one hooked up to cancer meds.... LOL (the real answer is that he HATES having his photo taken and likely suspected that one was extremely unnecessary).

So, as I was leaving the chemo room, one of my fave nurses ran up to me and gave me a big hug and told me to stop by and visit. She made sure to say I wasn't to return for any other reason than visiting but it was a surprise to get that hug - I'm not really sure why. Unfortunately, it pushed me into an emotional state that took awhile to recover from. All that time feeling as though this last treatment was not affecting me at all, and then ONE measly hug did me in and I was fighting back the stinging tears for a good 15 minutes or so and trying to talk about other things to divert myself from having a total breakdown as we strode out to the car & made our way to the restaurant.

Since it was my final chemo, we decided to go out for dinner to celebrate. We went to the Keg and shortly after we sat down, 2 people were sat in the booth next to ours and they were really LOUD - which was annoying on its own, but the man was really loud AND saying irritating things - quizzing the waitress in a way that made me feel sorry for her as she had to play along with his ridiculous conversation. Cam and I contemplated asking to be moved but stuck it out a little longer. Then he couldn't decide between the prime rib or a steak, and his daughter told him he should have steak because he had mentioned earlier that he was craving one. His reply was that his colon wouldn't know the difference. So that's what tipped the scale & Cam asked the front desk host if we could be moved - which of course, they did not only with pleasure but with extreme apologies as though they were personally responsible for loud obnoxious people in their restaurant.

A few minutes after we moved, the manager arrived with more apologies. I explained to her that we were there celebrating my final cancer treatment (yup - played my cancer card - very likely one of the last times I'll be able to!!!) - and we got FREE DESSERT! woo hoo. Well, they give free dessert all the time and maybe she was planning to give us one anyway since she was grovelling so bad - but anyway, my cards are running out so I wanted to get one more in there before the 'party' was over (tongue in cheek, of course). I think that this Keg dinner which included dessert makes it even MORE impressive that I had that 5 pound weightloss at my next weigh-in!!

I am having my port removed on Wednesday. I have to report that I believe that is the reason why I am awake at 1:00am typing this post instead of snoozing soundly. I didn't really think much of it before but as the day draws nearer, I realized that no one has actually given me any information about this process.

I got the message that I was to be at Royal Columbian Hospital at 10:30am, but no one advised me if I'm supposed to be fasting before-hand, or if I'm going under conscious sedation like last time or if it's local anaesthetic (I really hope not - not sure if I could handle being awake while a scalpel sliced open my skin). Started Googling at 11:30pm - did find some info online but that info has only sparked questions. So I will be on the phone to the hospital tomorrow to find out what I'm supposed to be doing. Do they expect us to KNOW this stuff???

Reconstruction is slated for the 1st week of March or possibly the second week (but I hope not). Definitely the first half of March as my plastic surgeon will be away for the last half of it. So they had BETTER get me in there!!! I'm done waiting - let's get this show on the road, get my boobs sorted out and move on.

I'm less nervous about reconstruction surgery than I am about the port-removal. Probably because I already KNOW the breast surgery process.... and because I know I will be unconscious. I am most nervous about being awake for the port removal. I don't think I would do well with that.

I also emailed my plastic surgeon's office to advise them that I am definitely not doing any nipple grafting surgery. I opted to have my one remaining nipple left alone and live without one on the fake side. I think I may miss my tissue expander. Since the new one was installed in September, my left breast looks like it's 18 years old - and that sucker doesn't move an inch. Of course, it is in no way natural looking as far as feel and movement go - but when I'm wearing a bra and a blouse and not bouncing around, you have no idea without touching it just how unnatural it really is. When I remove my bra, that one just stays exactly in the same place - whereas the real one drops to my belly button (thankfully, I can report that I am exaggerating......slightly). Once they replace this expander with a silicone implant, the new breast will look and feel much more natural - and that will come complete with the boob sag. He SAYS he will do his best to make them both more perky but don't expect miracles.

Hell, mine haven't been perky since my early 20s. Once they get to a ridiculous size, standing up on their own is a pipe dream. Or at least a plastic surgery dream. I will settle for 'slightly less saggy'. And even that isn't a requirement if I'm ending up with a matching size much smaller than before. I'm really hoping my weight loss helps with the breast size reduction part because as you all know, I started out as an H-cup and was hoping for a C-cup. But I went to my professional bra store at my birthday and was re-measured to an E-cup. Naturally, E-cup is preferrable to an H cup - however, it is not as close to a C-cup as I had hoped. Although in that store, I'm not sure they even have anything called a C-cup. I think they might have 'vanity sizing' for bras. I can buy a D or DD in the States that fit ok. Still bigger than I wanted though.

Anyway, I think I'll give this sleeping thing another go.... goodnight all and again, thank you everyone for all your love and support. I'm almost done!!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Cam and I returned from California on Sunday evening. It was an uneventful drive back, but coming back to the biting cold was hard. Although I've seen the temperatures in Alberta recently so I won't complain TOO bitterly....!

Met with my oncologist on Monday who informed me that my Dec 18 heart scan was a dud and needs a retest. Ugh - why do they even bother if the tests aren't reliable anyway? He also told me that he has sent in a request for me to have my port removed (yay!!) and that should happen within a month.

He doesn't generally like to 'sign off' a patient until the port is removed - and THEN we'll have our final appointment where he explains the next steps (which basically are passing me off to my GP's care & telling me I'll get an annual diagnostic mammogram).

Tomorrow is my final Herceptin. It is amazing how the time is flying by. Wasn't it only last month when I was recovering from my Halloween hangover just before chemo started???

I don't feel much of anything about this. I blogged once before that I might have more emotion or happiness once ALL the chemo was done - but honestly, it just feels like another day - I mean it hasn't come yet - but I'm not excited or relieved or anxious or anything. I just think I'm taking it all in stride - because I feel already like I'm done with cancer and that it isn't part of my life anymore. We'll just finish off these 'just in case' treatments - with the exception of my daily Tamoxifen pill, of course, which I'll be taking for the next 5 years - and then that's it!

I am just now getting the organization on the final surgeries. My reconstruction will be mid- March. I thought it was going to be February, but NOT as it turns out....

And I know I must be drawing to the close of this whole process because while I was in California I went clothes shopping and actually bought WORK clothes!!! What the!?! While I haven't discussed this with any of my doctors yet, I am anticipating a part-time return to work in mid-April or beginning of May.

Surgery, then time to recover & get my range of motion back YET AGAIN..... and then start working my way back into real life.... It is a very bizarre prospect but one we need to get to.

And Cam's job is finally coming to a real end this time at the end of January - no more extensions. So if anyone knows of anything in the purchasing field, please contact us so we can get his resume out there.

I realized the other day that I didn't even make any New Year's Resolutions this year.... although I was tempted to follow in my father-in-law's footsteps and resolve to gain 10 pounds. That would have been one I could keep for sure!!!

So I'll make a late resolution that is the same as mine was last year: I resolve to be cancer-free.

I'm sure everyone will support that one!!!

I guess this blog is sort of nearing the end of its life if it is for the 'medical' end of things.... I'm not sure if I will be able to give up blogging after all this time!!!!!

Until the next report!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

DAMN the fire ants!!

I did some research on whether going into a hot tub would help my cold or worsen it. The site I chose to acknowledge said that 20 minutes in a hot tub every few hours would help elevate the body temperature and kill off the cold germs.

Since the answer I wanted was to be able to go in the hot tub, I listened to this advice. And, I have to report, I think it IS true - I feel better after the hot tub. Anyway, it is quite cold here now, and so while the hot tubs & pools are lovely, the air outside afterward is icy cold. So after the hot tub last night, I decided for the first time in all the time I've been here, to go into the sauna to dry off and warm up before leaving the pool area.

As I sat there yacking with mom, I thought I felt something bite me - but I couldn't see anything so thought I imagined it. There there was another and another until I realized there was a serious problem - and I captured and killed an ant on me. ACK more bloody ant bites!!!

So we figured out that when I had my towel on the cement beside the hot tub, the ants were on it and then I wrapped the towel around me to go into the sauna and they went wild!! I have bites on my thighs, stomach and back.

I guess the good news is that the ant bites on my toes have finally eased the itching. The ammonia sting stop stuff is really the only thing that works, I've found. I must be really tasty to ants - no one else I have told this story to has anything similar to report.

Oh yeah - on a completely different note - I forgot to tell everyone that I rode a camel at the Living Desert Zoo. $5 per ride and I waited in line and took my turn. It was cool.

Happy official New Year!