Friday, March 11, 2011

The final Kiss Off

Saw my oncologist today for my final visit. He did an examination which didn't turn up anything distressing, and he advised that my final heart scan came back & everything was good.

Basically, my only treatment now is daily Tamoxifen for 5 years. After 5 years, if I am post-menopausal then I will see him again where he will evaluate me for another kind of hormone therapy for post-menopausal women. If I am still pre-menopausal, then I get no further treatment.

And, of course, I get my annual diagnostic mammogram (it is a little more skookum than the screening mammogram that most women get).

But other than that, I get no further testing - nothing that tells me I am 100% cancer-free - no guarantees or stamps of approval. Of course, I will be doing regular self breast exams (as all you women should be doing monthly).

If, after 5 years, I AM post-menopausal and he puts me on hormone therapy, then I will get regular bone density scans as those drugs cause Osteoporosus..... So he has given me a pamphlet on how to prevent Osteoporosus so I can get my bones in as absolutely good a shape as possible if it turns out I will need those drugs in 5 years.

I am looking to be a healthier me - in reading the nutrition stuff, I realize I have been eating very healthily - perhaps a little too much at times causing the weight struggle - but my choices have been good ones. I love fruits and vegetables and with the help of my TOPS friends and the nutrition stuff I've learned online, I am getting better and better at choosing healthy options.

And so I hope to get back to the weight I was at before I found the lump - that is about another 10 pounds or so away. Am hoping to do this before I go back to work so I can return looking & feeling great & reassure everyone that I am as good as new.

So, one more visit to the plastic surgeon for post-surgery follow-up and then I'll see him again for nipple tattooing (maybe, if I decide to do that) and otherwise, it's a wrap!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Real life, here I come....

Visited my GP today - he has authorized my return to work for May. He wants me at half time for 2 months and then he'll re-evaluate after that.

Let's see.....
June 12, 2009 - found lump.
Aug 26, 2009 - had breast removed.
Nov 09-Mar2010, chemo -
May 2010-June2010 Radiation -
Sep 2010 - surgery to replace expander
Feb 2010-Jan 2011 - Herceptin
Jan 2011 - chemo port removal
Mar 2011 - final reconstruction surgery.....

PHEW! I have been through a lot and will make use of this recovery time to get myself physically in shape and also mentally ready for my return to work. It seems so overwhelming - but gotta do it anyway.

I know I've said it before, but now that it all seems to be at an end, I just want to thank everyone who has supported me and sent their prayers and good wishes.

I read one of those breast cancer books early on where one woman had written that many people feel that cancer changed their lives for the better - but she will NEVER think that and went on to describe why. I think that same book had the story about how after one woman finished her chemo she threw out all the clothes she had that were red because that was the colour of her chemo meds. As I blogged in the past, I disagreed with that philosophy and felt that the chemo is what is saving our lives - and we should be grateful to have access to the treatment unlike in years past when cancer was simply the end.

I am one of those people who WILL say that cancer has improved my life. It brought everything that is important into sharp focus. It allowed me to have time off work to get healthy and happy and really appreciate all the wonderful things in life (like Desert Hot Springs!). It made me realize that always being irritated is not a very constructive way to be. It made me more tolerant - although it has been very frustrating to see people I love acting in the manner that I always used to feel. And no amount of description or advice can pursuade some people that all that stress just isn't worth it!!

Cherish the time you have! There's no point living a long and 'healthy' life if you are miserable doing it. I feel I have kicked cancer's ass, but if that is going to be my fate down the road, I can say that even if my life were to be shorter than I had hoped, I am HAPPY with mine the way it is right now. Fabulous network of family and friends supporting me, wonderful husband who has been there step by step with me, a workplace that has been completely understanding.

I plan to put cancer behind me in that I feel I am cancer-free and plan to stay that way with a healthy lifestyle - but I also DON'T plan to put it behind me as I feel that my cancer experience is a big part of me now and with all I've learned from it, will be looking to share that knowledge with others and hopefully ease some fears along the way.

I have had people ask me if it's ok to pass my blog onto others who have been diagnosed and I say BY ALL MEANS. Pass it onto anyone you feel would benefit from reading about my experience.

I have asked Cam to make a blog entry of his experience during the whole process. He said he would, but he is the kind of man that has to work up to these things and I'm sure he'll think carefully before he commits to writing. I hope I can get him to do it sooner rather than later as I really think that people could benefit from hearing his point of view as well.

But, I guess that's all I have for now. Thank you everyone!

Monday, March 7, 2011

More details & an update!

As I mentioned before, we arrived at the hospital at 6:30. My surgery was scheduled for 7:45 but I know from previous experience that it never happens at the scheduled time. While we were waiting, Cam's parking time was ticking down - so he had to dash out to refill the meter - and, of course, when he was gone is when they came to take me away to the operating room. But, thankfully, Butch was with me so I had some words of support to send me on my way.

The frustrating aside to that story is that Cam was THREE MINUTES over the limit and already had a parking ticket..... hmmmmm cheesy!

During the wait, Butch had asked me if I was scared or nervous. I said no because I was now an expert at this process. He advised me to take up a new hobby. I thought that was sage advice and plan on taking him up on it.

And I hadn't been nervous about the actual surgery - but I did have apprehensions about the awakening process. After my mastectomy, I remember feeling like I had to go to the bathroom immediately (which I didn't as it turns out and that makes sense since they don't let you eat in advance of surgery). But it was a yucky feeling. Then, after my expander replacement, I could taste the anaesthesia and felt quite nauseous and definitely recall being irritated with the surroundings. I'm sure I blogged previously about how bright and noisy the recovery room is - and nothing has changed.

So the I did get sick a couple of times (with nothing to bring up) in the recovery room, but I didn't taste the anaesthesia and in general felt better after this process than I did after the others. BUT, the recovery room is still awful - all the nurses are nattering all the time, and the blood pressure machine goes on every 5 minutes, and the lights are blaring (imagine the nurses needing to see what they are doing....) But after one of my bouts of nausea they brought me a cold cloth so I was able to use it to cover my eyes from the brightness.

I have no idea how long I was in the recovery room and no idea how long the surgery actually took. But we got home at 2:45.

The anaesthetist talked to me about the surgery as we walked down the hall to the operating room. Since I was having 'the full meal deal' I was naked under my gowns, and of course I had to remove my housecoat before getting on the table. My bare backside was visible and I was holding the gown closed behind me as I approached the table. As I climbed on I commented that I wasn't sure why I was protecting my modesty considering what was just about to happen. This made the doc laugh - he said 'well, you have a good sense of humour about it'.

I had discussed my apprehension about the awakening process in the OR and they were glad I did because apparently they can adjust the meds to compensate for nausea. And the gyno (who was doing his stuff first) patted my arm reassuringly and told me everything would be great. This gyno also phoned me PERSONALLY the day before the surgery to have a quick chat about it and advise me to get bloodwork. And so while I had previously had some reservations about this particular man due to his strange advice earlier in the process, the simple act of phoning me personally and then of patting my arm in the OR has made me a fan of him.

Also, in advance of surgery, I met with my plastic surgeon who draws all over my chest to help guide him in his work. When I bared myself for this process, he exclaimed on how much weight I had lost. WOO HOO. So his memory of our visit in the fall had him thinking he had a significant breast reduction to do to match my fake one. But he was SO happy because I already did most of the work for him. He was so pleased that he had less work to do that I commented to him 'Well after all, this IS all about YOU'..... He laughed - which is good because it probably isn't a good idea to piss off your surgeon right before you head into the operating room..... And he made a final comment on just how pleased he was with the result of our replacing the expander back in September.

He also asked me what I had decided on for the nipple option (a little nerve wracking as I thought I had made it extremely clear in the past that I'm not having the nipple) - but I clarified to him that I'm skipping the nipple and so he took his felt pen and wrote NO on my breast next to the circles he had drawn in the nipple area. What the!?!

Afterward, we discovered my recovery nurse is the mother of a major league baseball player Adam Loewen. To clarify, after surgery there is the recovery room (the loud irritating & bright place) and then when they are convinced you are stable enough they wheel you back into the daycare surgery area. So you're still in a bed and you're still recovering but it is much more calm and quiet in there. So this nurse was the one looking after me in THAT room. She was super nice. She even wheeled my wheelchair right out to the sidewalk when Cam went to get the car.

So after we got home, I went to bed because even though I was in bed all day, I didn't get much rest due to the aforementioned noise. So it was a relief to get into the quiet of my own bedroom. Then I had meat pie and homemade chow mein (compliments of Butch) for dinner - and of course I was ravenous since I didn't eat since the night before. It was DEEEEEE-licious.

And that night before bed, I took a couple of T3s, but then I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep and remembered that they have caffeine (plus the fact I basically was in bed all day) - so I opted not to take any more of those and was just using regular Ibuprofen. After only a day or so I didn't even need those except that I took some for a sore back.

I have taken off my bandages since the surgery to check out the results and am very happy with it. I can't tell yet what size I'm at and probably won't be able to for awhile as I won't be able to wear a real bra for some time. Sports bra with no underwire is it for me for a bit.

But certainly it is nice to see two breasts that rest at the same level on my chest.

This week I will be seeing all my doctors for follow-ups. Plastic Surgeon, GP & Oncologist. Before surgery, my GP told me that I would go back to work 6 weeks after surgery which puts my return to work at April 18. Of course, I will see him on Wed and he can decide for sure - but even though I am not really chomping at the bit for a return to work, I realize that this cancer process has to have an end at some point and then going back to normal is required. And of course working is part of that normal. But I will ease back in on a part-time schedule as I'm really not sure how much energy I actually have.

In my pre-surgery chat with the nurse, I was having the SAME nurse again that I've had both other times (the one that is also a recent breast cancer survivor). So I told her my last Herceptin had been in January and she advised that about 3 months after that, all my energy would return. I said I hadn't realized I was missing any and she said she felt the same way - didn't realize how much the Herceptin had actually affected her until 3 months later & the energy returned. So that will basically coincide with my return to work so that might make it easier too.

While I am not looking forward to the return to work for work's sake, I will be happy to regularly see my colleagues again as I love the people I work with and they have all been extremely supportive during this last year and half while I've dealt with this.

So I have been feeling good after surgery although a little physically limited since I can't lift things - but that is working in my favour as far as ordering Cam to do the laundry and other miscellaneous projects. HA HA

I guess that's all I have to say this time. Ciao!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Home from the hospital

Everything went a-ok. Arrived at hospital at 6:30am, just got home at 2:45pm. Feeling pretty good.

I got the 'value' deal the nurses kept saying because I got my implant put in, plus my right breast reduced/lifted AND I got the ablation.

Yup - it all worked out that they could coordinate the surgeries so it's all done and I am so happy about it since I have had some doozies of periods over the last couple of months....

Am going to lay down for a bit.