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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Remission

Went to Dr. Greene, my MD Anderson Oncologist today. Got a good report and I am officially in remission as of Oct 4. Praise God. One odd thing though, is that after the final pathology came back, 20% of my tumor showed hormone receptive cancer as opposed to triple negative. So I actually had two different types or forms of cancer. She said it happens but it seems odd to me? I guess when they do the biopsy it only takes a core of the tumor so the entire tumor isn’t analyzed until it’s removed. As a result of this pathology finding, the doctor wants to put me on Tamoxifen, as it reduces hormone receptive cancer reoccurrence so could help me by about 30%? Or at least my oncologist tells me this.

She said it is actually good news; not so sure having two types of cancer is good news, but I’ll go with her theory, as there is additional treatment, such as Tamoxifen, they can do with me so that I can reduce my rates of reoccurrence. I’m very happy that I have this option; just surprised to have both triple negative and hormone receptive cancers. I’m just unique I suppose. When I told one of my best friends Sue she said I always was an overachiever and that made me laugh. God made us all different, and it makes the world a more interesting place. So I just keep making is more interesting is suppose.

Also I’m told my chemo was extremely effective as I only have 5% residual cancer; she said that is microscopic in the cancer world so chemo did phenomenally well for me. Oh the world of cancer, I learn something every day about this disease. J I’m happy though to be officially CANCER FREE…… Yeah.

I’m doing pretty well overall; I still have stitches. I am also finding reconstruction is going to be a daunting process; however being cancer free is wonderful. I hope to get surgery dates when I see my reconstruction surgeon tomorrow and gynecological oncologist Thursday. I have mixed feelings about doing surgery before or after the New Year. If I do it in early to mid-December, I will be done with this all and 2012 will be start fresh. A new chapter so to say for 2012. I also won’t have to pay that darn deductible again. Stephen laughs at me for this reason; however my oncologist said it today and when I had my ultrasound today she mentioned the same reason and said she’s heard that a million times as Cancer is expensive. LOL

I also don’t want to be hurried and pushing the reconstruction process or for us to be overwhelmed during the Holiday season. So I’m really torn on what to do and when to try and get them scheduled. So I’ve been praying for my doctors to have the guidance to know when to schedule surgery that is best for me. God always knows the right answers and has answered prayers thus far, so I figure I’ll give this up to him as well. J it really takes the weight off of my shoulder when I do this and through this incredible experience I’m really learning to listen to him and fully trust in his will.

We come home Friday and are so ready!! It seems like we’ve been gone for so long. Although the outcome has been successful; being gone from the kids has been hard. I’m so glad that we have such a loving, supportive family and community so that we can leave when necessary but know our children are well taken care of. Dad has done a fantastic job with Gavin and Arrington and Grandma and Grandpa Gillig helped so much with Delaney. Also the cards of support and encouragement that have been sent to Houston have been so uplifting. It seems they always arrive at just the right time.

Both Gavin’s and Arrington’s class also sent me cards or drawings. They were so sweet and I know that years from now we will look back at these and smile. It is so wonderful to know that the kids are being supported so thoroughly during this time as well. We imagine this is hard on them. All the changes and our time away. We try to include them. To be open and honest with them, to the degree that will not scare them but they will understand and feel secure. It’s a fine line sometimes however so we pray for divine wisdom for these conversations as well. This is similar to our adoption talks, as we want to say the ‘right’ things but as parents we don’t always know what those are. It’s kind of funny as when you are a kid you think your parents know everything but as parents often times we think we really don’t know much. Thank you God for my healing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pathology

Got pathology back today; lymph nodes have NO cancer. Yeah. Also the chemo killed all but 5% of the cancer within the tumor. Yeah. However they are still up in the air on radiation. Yuck. They have a radiology committee meeting Friday and are going to discuss my case and give me their recommendation Friday afternoon. I don’t want radiation but I don’t want the cancer to come back either. So please pray for God’s guidance in my doctor’s recommendations.

I want to be sure I've done everything possible to prevent a re-occurrence however radiation will cause me to be in Houston for at least six more weeks and delay my reconstruction and hysterectomy. I've decided to try and give my worry to God as ultimately he makes all the decisions anyway. I am praying for him to guide my decision, as ultimately i can choose to have radiation even if the doctors say i should have it, and I pray I have the inner peace to know that my decision is his plan for my life.

As I ponder the past several months, I am surprised how quickly they have gone by. They say time flies when you are having fun; however I wouldn't consider these months fun but they certainly have been enlightening and a learning opportunity. God has shown himself in my life in ways I could have never imagined and he's given me glimpses into his plan for me that would I not had been diagnosed with cancer I might not have ever realized or known. Life has a funny way of working out, even if we don't think it's for the best at the time, it turns out to be part of the plan. Time seems to heal all wounds and helps us grow with knowledge and peace. I know that when I look back at this experience in a few years, I will see things differently but ultimately I want to keep a positive outlook through all this. Thank you God for my healing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recovery

Well we’ve been in Houston for almost two weeks now. I had pre op appointments last Wednesday and mapping and anesthesia on Monday. We were planning to leave all the kids at home and for Dad to bring them this Thursday, but we ended up taking Delaney as Jon and Tori were going to Houston for a friend’s dad’s 60th birthday party so they were able to bring her home on Tuesday Oct 4. The day of my surgery.

Dad is planning to bring the kids to Houston this Thursday so they can visit. Delaney will stay but Gavin and Arrington will go back on Sunday or Monday as they need to go to school. We’re trying to find someone to ride with Dad, as taking all three kids by himself would be a challenge. I’m sure it will all work out but pray that someone will be available to help him with the trip.

We enjoyed our time in Houston before the surgery and also attended our friend’s dad’s birthday party. I was best friends with his sister Nicole and Jon was best Friends with Jason when we lived in Pearland. We hadn’t seen Stacey, their dad, in 20 years. Jason lives in Kiowa now and works for RSI but I hadn’t seen his sister Nicole in probably 18 years. It was great to see them all again. Then on Sunday we went to their beach house in Freeport and spent the day reconnecting. Delaney got to play in the ocean and she loved it. She was covered with sand and even thought she’d taste it (however it turned out she didn’t like it) the look on her face was priceless though.

I checked into the hospital at 5:45 AM on Tuesday Oct 4th and was in recovery by about 1:30. All went well and it did not appear that the lymph nodes had any cancer; however they had to be sent to pathology and those results should be back by Wednesday. They also had to take a little extra skin on the right side where the tumor was as the doctor wanted to be safe as opposed to leaving even one tiny cancer cell. I’m glad she made the choice to be cautious as I never what this disease back. The reconstruction doctor said taking the extra skin wouldn’t affect the outcome so I’m hopeful that turns out true.

When I woke up I was in extreme pain. It hurt to breath; they were concerned they might have punctured a lung when they did my spinal block. So X-Ray was called in. Of course my lung was fine, thanks goodness; however the pain wasn’t under control. It literally hurt to breath. Since I’m allergic to so many pain medications, it was hard for them to find something to give me. Dr. Truong had given me NUCYNTA for the tumor pain. However the pain management team could only give that at MD Anderson. So they were called in. In the meanwhile they gave me morphine and it did not even take the edge off the pain. Finally they gave me something stronger and it worked. The issue was however that it was only available via IV. I couldn’t go home with it so I had to have the pain management group evaluate and make a plan for me before I could be released. For a while we were not sure it if was going to get to go home that day or have to stay another night; I wanted to go home as one night in the hospital was enough for me because they wake you up every few hours and it is just really hard to sleep. The pain management team ended up doubling up on the Nucynta and gave me a few other pain controllers to make the pain tolerable. Believe me, it’s always there, and I have not been pain free, but I can at least function, somewhat. Before they found something that worked I was literally in tears just from breathing.

I came home with four drain tubes. I’m hopeful they will come out on Wednesday which is when I have my follow ups with reconstruction, surgery, and radiology. We will also find out during the follow ups about my pathology as hopefully it will be back by then. The drains are very uncomfortable and are held in place with stitches. I also have stitches across my breast, I’m told these won’t show much once the reconstruction is completed but right now it looks pretty brutal. There are also stitches under my arm where they took my two lymph nodes. So I sort of look like Frankenstein. It’s very interesting taking a bath, as I can’t get the antibiotic stripes on the drain tubes where they enter my ribs wet so we put that saran wrap that sticks to anything on over the drains. Dr. Bauman told us about this and it works surprisingly well. It’s also a full time job keeping up on the medication I have to take. It’s something every four hours with most times several medications at once. For the first few days home from the hospital I could barely function. I couldn’t hardly see, read, or type. Talk about horrified, all I could do was lay around and watch daytime TV. Yuck. By today though I’m much better and have been able to decrease some of the medications which make me able to function better. However if I have to choose between that pain and functioning I’ll give up the functioning until I’m better as that pain was almost unbearable.

Mom and Stephen have been taking turns cleaning the drain tubes, as we have to do that in the morning and evening. Then we have to write down the output amounts and also take my temperature. With this info, we take it to the doctor and if it’s under 30 ML for two days in a row my drains can come out. So I’m pretty sure they will be removed on Wednesday. The drains make it very difficult to sleep and they also get easily caught on things, so I have to be extra careful and we all know how clumsy I am. Having them removed will be such a relief as I will actually be able to sleep on my side again. Yeah

I did have a post op follow up on Friday with Dr. Bauman and he said things are looking good. He did put me on an additional antibiotic just to be on the safe side as there was some redness but other than that everything was OK. They also put some fluid in my expanders and they will put some more in them this Wednesday too. He said if all goes well, I could have my final reconstruction in two month, which would be great as I’d like to have all this done before the New Year. During my reconstruction I will also have my hysterectomy and then this chapter should be closed. Thank God.

The house we are staying at is great. It’s very spacious and comfortable. Ann, the ladies mom that owns the home came and visited Sunday. It was wonderful talking with her. She then brought us dinner on Saturday. I’ve also received several cards and flowers. They are so pretty and smell so good. Overall the experience has been different then I expected but not necessarily worse. I’m just grateful that my pain is under control and that I appear to be healing well. I’m anxious to get my pathology results, and I’m hopeful that they will be negative so that I don’t have to have radiation. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been here almost two weeks already but I guess times just flies. I appreciate all the prayers and I truly can feel everyone’s love and concern. Thank you God for my Healing.