My 2 weeks of recovery…

I woke up the following day after surgery feeling like a train wreck. I wasn’t in extreme pain but I was exhausted and still drowsy from my medications. I was actually able to get around pretty well. I’d say the only surprise I had that day was the blue urine I had as a result of a dye called Lymphazurin used during my surgery to help locate my sentinel node. I was a smurf for the day, no problem! πŸ™‚

All was going well until a few days after surgery when I finally made the decision to stop my pain medications. I couldn’t take it anymore. They were making me nauseas, constipated, bloated and I was gaining a substantial amount of weight. Within just a few days I had gained about 10lbs. I felt horrible and it had nothing to do with vanity. I just felt like I was accumulating everything and releasing nothing resulting in my body feeling like a toxic dump.Β It took several days before my body began to regulate itself and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable but, the pain I felt from not taking my medications was well worth feeling more like myself again.

My surgeon called me within the first week to see how I was feeling and to report his findings. I explained what I had been going through and he reassured me it was normal. Till this day I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon. He kept me informed of his thoughts every step of the way and it made me feel like I too had a say in what was happening. That’s a big deal to anyone let alone an ex control freak like myself. I wanted to be involved in everything no matter how big or small it seemed to anyone else. It was my body and I had the right to know what was going to happen to it.

He made mentioned that after the biopsy of my sentinel node they observed the cells carefully to see if the cancer had spread and, to his surprise he found 1 lymph node positive for a single cluster (5-6 cells) of individual tumor cells. Since it was such a small count he removed only a few lymph nodes but needless to say it was something to consider when I sat down with my oncologist to discuss my treatment plan.

You can only imagine how I translated this in my head. “Why is he so calm? I was told the cancer was incapsulated. If it was, how did any of it, even the tiniest bit, spread to the lymph nodes? Wouldn’t it have been better to just remove them all?” I was scared and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t understand how that wasn’t a big deal. My surgeon reassured me and helped put me at ease.

I later received a separate phone call with the news about my PET/CT scan. There was an area of concern in my right pelvis. “What?” I began to have flashbacks of the times my gynecologist suggested I have an ultrasound to keep an eye on the cysts I was developing. Prior to surgery we had talked about the correlation between breast cancer and cervical or ovarian cancer but, I wanted to believe that since I found my breast cancer on time, it wouldn’t have had the chance to spread elsewhere. However, regardless of what I thought, we had to be certain so I was scheduled for a CT scan immediately.

My family and closes friends were concerned. I hadn’t even finished recovering from my surgery and they weren’t sure if I could handle this or even be up to doing more tests. In all honesty, I wasn’t. I was afraid to know that I could have been wrong and that the cancer may have spread. That would have been the second thing I let go by. How could I live with myself? Than again, how could I live with myself now delaying something so important? If indeed there was cancer, waiting wasn’t going to change that and could potentially make it worse.

I wasn’t cleared to drive yet and since my mom and I worked in the same office we weren’t able to be off at the same time. This again was the perfect example of the importance of a solid support system. Without any hesitation my bosses wife told me she would be picking me up and accompanying me to my appointment. In fact, when the day came, she even sat in the room with me while I had my scan done to make sure they had me in a comfortable position and that I didn’t feel alone.

Between the many beautiful cards filled with words of love, prayer and encouragement, the beautiful bouquets of flowers and edible arrangements and the occasional house visits, I had all of the support anyone could ever wish for. There was still a long journey ahead but I wasn’t going to be alone. I was reminded of that again within those few weeks of recovery and it gave me the strength I needed to continue…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

Be sure to check out my photos tab to see pictures of me taken during my recover. πŸ™‚

Is it already over with…

My eyes began to open slowly, one at a time as they tried to adjust to the lighting in the white ceiling above me. I moved my head from side to side and thought to myself, “where am I”? It took another moment before I realized that my surgery was complete and I was in the recovery room. After a few more minutes of looking around at my surroundings, a nurse came over to my bedside and told me that during my surgery there were no complications and that everything had turned out well. I pondered a moment over what she had told me and smiled. It was music to my ears.

Once I no longer felt nauseas the nurse stood me up and transferred me into a chair. My family was then given permission to come in and see me. I was still pretty woozy but it was so nice to see them again. It appeared as if they had been there all night, due to the tired look on their faces, yet to me it felt as if I had taken a short nap. I engaged in a little chit chat but became nauseas again and above all I was starving. I hadn’t eaten all day and it was already late in the evening. The nurse suggested I chew on some ice chips and sip on some sprite but after begging just a bit longer she gave into my request and allowed me to eat some crackers.

I was so happy to be done with my surgery. It was the symbol of my starting with a clean slate. I understood there was still a long road ahead but, in that moment I felt that I had jumped my tallest hurdle. The nurse began to give me instructions on my post operative care but, after a while all I wanted to do was go home. Once she finished, she handed me the packet of instructions she had just gone over. I then said my goodbyes to all of the amazing nurses and people who took care of me and we were on our way home.

We arrived at the house pretty late from what I could recall and we were all exhausted after such a long day. When I finally got to my room I laid down with the intention of watching a little tv but, as soon as my head hit the pillow it was good night and sweet dreams…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

Here is a short post-op video I thought I’d share with you all. It was taken in the recovery room by my family. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Elizabeth here checking in for surgery…

The day of my surgery had finally arrived. There were still so many questions to be answered but, the one thing I knew for certain is that I was going to leave home that morning with a cancerous tumor and come back without it.

My mom and my partner accompanied me to have my lymphoscintigraphy scan done prior to checking in at the hospital. I’d say I was pretty calm when we arrived but, once they called my name, I began to recall the steps of the procedure and became very nervous. It would be similar to the biopsy I had done only there were more injections and they didn’t really contain a numbing agent. I felt every single one. The worse one was the one right by my nipple. I’m glad I was strapped down because I might have knocked the technician and doctor out with just one swing!

The injections did finally came to an end and with my partner by my side the scans began. My mom was later brought in as well and it wasn’t long before they both just sat there laughing. I finally asked, “why are you laughing?”, and they both replied, “we’ve never seen someone go through something like this and yet have so much to talk about. You won’t stop talking.” I admit I’m a bit of a chatter box but, that day I was non stop like the energizer bunny. I suppose my nerves had gotten to me and instead of crying I was talking to anyone who would listen. Personally I think they enjoyed the entertainment as a lack of humor would have made the whole experience very boring.

It didn’t take to much longer before the scans were done and I was on my way to the hospital. My stepdad worked in the OR so he was already there. My dad had come straight from work and arrived moments before I did. The gang was all here and now we just had to wait for my name to be called.

We weren’t in the waiting room long before someone arrived to get me. I was so nervous that to tell you the truth I couldn’t even remember if it was a male or female. In that moment all that was running through my mind was, “when will I see my family again? Will it be before or after surgery?” It was such a quick goodbye. Fortunately, I was brought into a private room and only minutes later a nurse was already in there giving me my gown with matching socks and a bag for my belongings. She informed me that once I had changed and she had prepped my IV along with a few other things she had to do, my family would be allowed to come in.

With that being said, I changed as quickly as I could and once she was done my family was brought into my room. It was great to see them again. Even my boss stopped in to see how I was doing. Of course this later became the joke of the century. You see, I was completely calm before my boss showed up but thanks to today’s technology, everyone was alerted of my increased heart rate when he walked in the room.Β How embarrassing! It’s not that I had a crush on him, it was more the respect I have for him as a doctor. My partner refers to it as a professional crush and says it’s completely normal when you look up to someone so much. Nevertheless, it was still something I was teased about for months to come.

I had so many loving people around me and it was extremely comforting. The surgery was delayed by several hours and within that time there were videos made, pictures taken, jokes told and a whole lot of silliness going on. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to everyone. As they rolled me away on my bed I waived and gave them all a big smile. I dare to say in that moment I was even excited. Till this day I can’t figure out exactly why but, I can tell you it was short lived.

There I was, being transferred from one bed to the next and strapped down to the surgery table. The lights were shining so bright and the room was so cold. I was so nervous and it was then, while talking to one of the sweetest nurses I now have the pleasure of knowing, that I broke down into tears. It was as if all of the built up fear was pouring out of me all at once. She did her best to calm me down by reminding me that I was in good hands and that she had made a promise to my step dad to take good care of me.Β Between breathes I tried finding comfort in those words as they placed a mask over my mouth but, before I knew it, the anesthesia had kicked in and I was fast asleep…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

**** Note to reader ****

I’ve attached a short video clip of me taken prior to my surgery. It will give you a good idea of what my nervous chatter and building an image of fearlessness looked like. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

It’s really happening…

The following day on my way to my PET/CT scan I was thinking about all of the things I needed to address prior to my being off for surgery. I would be away from work for 2 weeks and home bound for at least the first week. Then, moments before arriving at my destination I had a flashback of what had occurred only weeks before. It all sunk in within those few moments. I had put in my notice at work and had planned to leave at the end of December. We had even found a replacement. How could I move away from my doctors and what was I going to do about my insurance? More than ever I needed to be certain I was insured at all times. There was already so much on my plate. I didn’t need something else to worry about.

I called my mom to express my concerns in hopes of some helpful advice but instead I got something better. It was like my angels were telling me to relax and that everything was going to be okay. My boss of 11+ years and his wife had already spoken to my mother. They told her that my job was secure until I was finished with my journey. I couldn’t believe my ears!! The support I had all around was overwhelming. I never realized how much I meant to so many. They had even spoken to the young lady we found for my position and she was willing to wait and sending me prayers for a speedy recovery. It was like a ton of bricks were lifted off my shoulders and once again I was able to focus.

I entered the facility and signed in. It was early and it didn’t seem very busy. After a short wait the technician whisked me away into another one of those fancy closets with the designer blouses I had mentioned in my prior posts. I was becoming more and more familiar with this luxurious lifestyle. When I finished changing I was brought into a room filled with several recliner like chairs divided by privacy partitions. As I sat in the back room waiting for the technician to inject me with my radiation cocktail, I watched as the other patients were directed to their seats. It was starting to get full but, my cocktail did eventually arrive and it was administered intravenously.Β After an hour of relaxing and going through the many possible outcomes of my results the scan was performed and I was on my way to my pre-op appointment.

At the hospital, I went from one waiting room to the next before sitting down with the nurse to go over my preoperative instructions. She drew some more blood and asked a number of questions. Then she handed me an antimicrobial body wash. She explained I had to use this on the day of surgery and the day prior. It didn’t smell pretty but I smiled, thanked her and was on my way. I hadn’t eaten all morning and I was starving. I headed to a near by bagel place and there I spent a little time organizing all of my thoughts and paperwork.

This was really happening. In just a few days I was going to be having surgery. Most importantly, I had to face another challenge. I had to tell the people closes to me. I chose since the beginning to tell no one until I knew for certain what my diagnoses was but, then everything started to unfold so quickly. I could no longer hide it from them. How could I explain my 2 weeks of inactivity? I was always off doing a race or training and I had only told a hand full of people prior to my diagnoses. It wasn’t easy for me to announce I had cancer. Who wants to be the one to say, ” Hi there, I know you have a lot going on but hey, I have cancer.” I didn’t want to be a Debbie downer. I liked delivering good news, not dropping that kind of load on someone. Regardless, now was the time to start explaining what was happening to those around me.

It was hard to talk about it because the approach many had was, “Maybe they are wrong, these kinds of things have happened to others before”. I didn’t want people to be sad or feel bad for me but at the same time I didn’t want to be filled with false hope. I knew my doctors weren’t wrong. I also knew what my body was telling me. It was an emotional roller coaster but in the end it created an even larger support system and that was a true blessing. I just had to learn that everyone’s reactions were different and I couldn’t take it personal.Β Some were upset they didn’t know sooner, others were there supporting me every step of the way with prayers and words of encouragement.

All in all I had an overwhelmingly positive response. It felt great to start sharing my journey and having so many people to talk to about it. It kept me strong and I am eternally grateful for those amazing people in my life. Near and far, you are all apart of my journey and I couldn’t have made it this far without you…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

 

“It’s official”, I have cancer…

The day was November 7th and I was scheduled that afternoon to see a surgeon. I hadn’t received my official diagnoses but, I was expecting the results of my biopsy to arrive by fax in any moment. Everything was moving so fast. A little over a week ago I was oblivious to anything being wrong with me and yet that afternoon I stood there at the age of 31 contemplating a mastectomy. I think somehow I was still in denial because it wasn’t till I reviewed my results that my world came crashing down.

There I stood, holding one of the most important pieces of paper I would ever have in my possession. As I began to read it, the words stood out loud and clear, HIGH GRADE DUCTAL CARCINOMA. There was no running away from it, I had cancer. I showed my mom (who worked with me at the time) and all I could mutter was, “it’s official.” I wanted to break down into tears but knew I had to keep it together. I was at work and this just wasn’t the time. I needed to get through the day and my appointment with the surgeon that afternoon.

To be honest with you, this was my attitude through my entire journey. I just needed to resolve the issue. I had no time for this, I had a plan! I still hadn’t registered the fact that I had received what I later considered to be a gift. The gift that would teach me to appreciate life more than I ever had and the knowledge to really live it to its fullest. I just wanted it gone and to never think about it again. Of course, this sort of attitude also kept me from acknowledging what was really happening and this proved to be a problem further down the line.

I arrived at the surgeons office that afternoon accompanied by my mom. We sat down, discussed the results with him and for the first time received a bit of good news. My surgeon was more than convinced that a mastectomy wasn’t necessary. That he could perform a lumpectomy (also known as a partial mastectomy) and simply remove the tumor along with any affected lymph nodes. “Thank you god.” This was going to be a much simpler surgery and an even faster recovery.

Somehow, amongst all my fears and frustrations I was able to find a moment of peace and happiness. This was my gift and although it wouldn’t have been something I’d put on my wish list, it only took a short period of time for me to find the beauty in the pink ribbon it was wrapped in. This was my opportunity to grow and make the most of this experience. To conquer it, gain self confidence in myself, and take the leap to start my new journey.

The decision was made, I was scheduled for surgery on Monday, November 11th. It was already Thursday the 7th so we had to move fast. The following day I was scheduled for a PET/CT scan and my pre-op. Then, I was scheduled on Monday to have a lymphoscintigraphy done prior to surgery. The results of this test would be used as a map during my surgery to find the sentinel node and determine if the cancer had spread. It was something I had considered but didn’t want to give to much thought. I could only pray at this point that the cancer hadn’t spread…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

*** Note to reader ***

Below are some links I thought might be helpful to those interested in knowing more about PET/CT scans and Lymphoscintigraphy. Please be aware that I am in no way affiliated with these sites and have provided them for my readers educational purposes only. If you are more of a visual learner, I encourage you to watch the short video included in the link. πŸ™‚

Lymphoscintigraphy – http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=lympho

PET/CT scan- http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=pet