Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Second Round of Chemo

Well, after whining about my first chemo treatment, I finally started feeling much better. Week two I would actually say that I felt 99% normal. I tired easily but other than that, felt great. Worried a little about the next treatment but tried not to think about it.
 
My hair started falling out in clumps on Sunday. Crazy! Even though you know its coming, you still can't prepare for it. I have to admit though. It's kinda nice having thinner hair. It lays down better and doesn't look as frizzy. But I'm leaving DNA evidence all over East Texas! I suppose its going to have to be shaved off in a day or two. Not looking forward to that.
 
I went in Monday for treatment #2. Of course, I told the doctor that I had such a terrible time with the first one. I don't know if she changed anything or not but this time it was NOTHING! Hooray! I came home and took a short nap but was good the rest of the night. No nausea, no nothing.
 
I came home from the doctor tonight to find Craig with a bald head! What a sweetheart. He is so supportive of everything. I am truly thankful that I have him for a partner.
 
I am so blessed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Thoughts on Breast Cancer

I just wanted to share some of my random thoughts lately, especially on the subject of Breast Cancer, which really stinks.

October 2012 I found a lump in my left breast, not any more unusual than the other 5 lumps that I have found and had biopsied over the course of 30 plus years. I was due for a mammogram anyway, so I scheduled one for the following weeks. Since there was actually a lump found, a sonogram was scheduled at the same time. The mammogram couldn't see anything, even when they concentrated in the area of the lump, so they went ahead with the sonogram. Of course, it was "suspicious", like they ALL are, and the doctors wanted to do a biopsy the following week. Like I said, I have had 5 other negative biopsies and the thought that it could be positive never even entered my mind. I went through the motions because that is what you do. You get a biopsy. You suck it up and let the doctors do their job. They get paid big bucks for making sure you don't have cancer.

I was at a funeral for Craig's childhood friend when I saw that I had a missed call. The message asked me to call the nurse back so we could discuss the results. I thought maybe something was wrong because she would have just stated that the biopsy was negative and that she would see me in a few years. As soon as I had a minute, I called her and she informed over the phone that I had breast cancer. I laughed. She told me that I could say, "Well, shoot! That stinks!" but I couldn't. I just laughed. It was ridiculous. Just a lump. OK. Well, now what? She was very helpful and made an appointment for me to see the oncology surgeon in about a week and a half. It was Thanksgiving week and it was difficult to make an appointment immediately. Then we sat, and waited...

Telling everyone I knew seemed like the logical thing to do. Only thing is, I couldn't tell anyone with a straight face. They all thought I was joking. Nope. Just sounds stupid saying it out loud. You know, they mis-diagnose things like this all the time. Its all a mistake. Maybe I need a second opinion.

Getting to the oncology surgeon seemed like a lifetime and I was looking forward to getting some answers, like mastectomy? lumpectomy? stage? prognosis? But no. The surgeon gave me no answers. He gave me info about mastectomies and lumpectomies and sent me home to decide for myself. Wait. I can't make that decision. That's up to the experts to decide. The surgeon sent me to a plastic surgeon and then to a radiation oncologist. I did a lot of reading and thinking and changing my mind until I decided that I wanted to have a left mastectomy and then have both breasts reconstructed. And that's when I sat down and cried. It's becoming a reality. But then I think tummy tuck!! Yeh!

Nope.

Plastic surgeon says they don't take fat from your tummy anymore. They take a big ol' muscle out of your back and bring it around front to make a breast. SERIOUSLY?!? Do you not know what I do for a living?!? I don't have time for all this! I lift, tug, pull, and yank on BIG kids all day long. If not me, then who's going to take care of them? UGH!!!

Ok. So I've decided to do the mastectomy with reconstruction. Well, that complicates things. Now I have to get the sentinel nodes biopsied first so that extra nodes can be removed before reconstruction if there are any more that are positive. Great. Now I'm going for a "simple" day surgery at Baylor in Dallas.

I wake up to NO feeling in my arm, back, chest and even the back of my head! I mention that its all numb. "Oh yes, honey. That's normal." Wait. NO FEELING? At ALL? I didn't sign up for that. UGH!!!

Now, a few days later, I get another call from the surgeon. Four out of five lymph nodes are positive. Well, there's my second opinion. And now I will need to take chemo AND radiation. And I can't have the reconstruction surgery until after radiation so they're going to just use a tissue expander with saline and wait until after radiation to use the muscle in the back. UGH! Off to the mastectomy I go the day after Christmas, not very confident in my decision of complete removal of the breast along with all the remaining lymph nodes.

And the "Bye-bye Boobie" cake was priceless! One little way of poking fun at a full-blown nightmare.

Oh yeh, and the second biopsy showed 3 more nodes involved for a total of seven nodes. And now I'm a stage 3. Stage 3? That's like a 50% chance of survival. That stinks.

Off to the medical oncologist I go not expecting many new answers or help. But she says, "No. You don't have stage 3. You are only a stage 2a. You only have the three nodes involved." Well, THAT'S a BIG difference! 85% chance of survival is a whole lot better than 50%. Ok. I can do this!

But wait. Why was I told I was a stage 3? I called the surgeon's office kinda ticked about the whole thing. She brought up my reports and told me that she wished that she was wrong, but her records were correct. I was indeed a stage 3. Ok, now what? Each office is arguing that they are right. The nurse at the oncologist actually said to me, "Dr. Blum is the expert in her field. Who are you going to believe?" Wait. Believe? I don't want to just CHOOSE who to believe! I just need the truth! Ok. Well, after I asked each of the offices to talk with each other and to come to a consensus, the surgeon's office finally agreed that they had read the pathology report wrong and that, yes, I was a stage 2a. Finally! Some good news.

Alright. So I need to let my body heal from the mastectomy before starting chemo. And, yes! I will volunteer to be in a study to help future breast cancer victims. Its the least I can do. Chemo count down: 1 month, Feb. 4th.

Lots of tests to do before chemo. Labs, echocardiogram, bone scan, MRI of the abdomen, spine, installation of a chemo port, etc. That's three surgeries in the last month and I'm starting to have some gas pains now that are quite debilitating. I mention them to the oncologist and she checks the MRI that was just done. Diverticulitis. She puts me on 2 antibiotics and on a clear liquid diet. WRONG combination. I vomited the whole day. When I reported that I was vomiting, they instructed me to go to the nearest emergency room, that my bowels may have ruptured. Seriously? I'm on antibiotics and clear liquids. I ate some crackers and felt fine. That's the first time I have ever disobeyed a direct order from a doctor.

Well, Feb. 4th finally rolls around and I'm thinking I'm getting chemo. I've got myself all worked up, nightmares and all. But the doctor says, "no." We have to have at least 4 weeks without antibiotics to make sure the diverticulitis is gone. Chemo can make the diverticulitis much worse and there is a real possibility of a bowel rupture. Dang. More waiting. And by the way, you no longer qualify for the study because the window is gone. Dang again.

So I head back to the plastic surgeon who's going to make me into a beautiful lady with 20-year-old boobs. Its time to expand the breast with saline. But my tissue expander is contracted and he can't insert any more saline. It would just start coming out the top of the breast. And he says that would look funny. Does he see what I look like now? Could anything look worse? I'm serious. And its only going to get worse with radiation. More dangs.

Alright. March 4th is starting to roll around and I had one more bout of diverticulitis. I called the doctor and they want me to see the gastroenterologist, of course. So I'm thinking no chemo until I get his blessing. But she looks me in the eye and says, "But I think we need to get started on your treatment." OK. I'm at the doctor's office without anyone for support getting chemo that I thought for sure I wouldn't receive today. Thank you, Bethany, for taking off work immediately and being with me. I thought I was going to be OK but then nearly blacked out from panic when they started giving it to me.

It was poison. Pure, unadulterated poison. Actually a derivative of Mustard Gas. What was I doing to my body?!? It was fine 2 months ago! And now I'm killing it. This seems so darned barbaric to me.

And now I'm a week post-first-chemo. I was extremely nauseated, enough that I had to sleep with the garbage can the first night. UGH! BAD!!! And I slept the whole first week. I couldn't function like everyone said I would be able to after the first treatment. I was actually surprised that I couldn't function any better. I was always asleep on the couch. Yesterday was the first day I actually stayed up all day without a nap.

And now I only have 6 more days before my next treatment. UGH! I don't think I can do it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. And did I mention, I hate it? I don't have any choices. I have permanently mutilated my body. I don't have the strength in my hands to open things any more. My left breast constantly hurts. It feels like I have a bag of rocks under my skin. I have 7 more rounds of poison, I mean chemo, to tolerate and I'm starting to feel sorry for myself. Nothing tastes like it should. And my scalp hurts. In preparation of losing my hair. Another dang. Intellectually, I understand this is all necessary. But dang. It really stinks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This is a test.

This is a test so I can see if I can send a video from my phone! Plus the video is really cute, especially the last 5 seconds!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Our First Foster Child!

We received our first child today. His name is Lawrence and he is a cutie! I hope everyone gets to meet him soon because they will fall in love with him. This is going to be FUN!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Storm Feb 2010!

Well, we survived the Snow Storm of Feb. 2010!! It started out snowing all day on Thursday but only an inch or so stuck to the grass. It was pretty exciting, since it doesnt snow around here but every couple of years or so.

By Thursday night though, snow was starting to stick pretty good. The temp stayed about 34 degrees all day so some of the snow melted off. The kids loved playing in it at school, and the Superintendent had us send home notes that Friday's school would not be starting until 10am.

Then we woke up Friday morning...

Oh! Wow!

THIS is what we woke up to! It was like I was in a dream, or a fairy tale! Perfect stillness, no breeze, no snow coming down, no critters or birds moving around, just like everything was perfectly frozen in time.


Even the dog had fun! What happened to the garden?!?




Well, also got just a little bit of damage to the tree out front. But that's ok. I loved the show!



Our electricty was off sometime Friday morning before we woke up. And it didn't come back on back on till Saturday about noon. Temps inside the house were 55 on Friday, which was not really bad. We just kept blankets on and used some hand warmers from the 72 hour kits. We had no phone, no lights, no heat, and very sporadic cell phone service. We could get an occasional text but couldn't send very consistently. Plus, with it constantly looking for service, our batteries ran out quickly. We finally had to plug the phones in the car.

But Saturday morning when we woke up, temps inside the house were about 42. Different story. Very cold! That's when we decided that we needed to go somewhere and get warm. It's quite weird to take a shower in the dark, with a small flashlight shining at you. And while I was in the shower, the Flemings came by with a kerosene heater, but flipped on the lights! We had power! Yea!!!! They left the heater for us to warm the house until the central heater could get caught up. THANK YOU, FLEMINGS!!!! Gotta love those Home Teachers!

Now we have cell phone coverage, home phones, tv, and heat. It was a very strange feeling not to be able to communicate with the world. At least we had gas in the car, if we needed to go somewhere. (Couldn't get a hotel due to the NBA Allstar Game Sunday night. Every hotel in Dallas was booked.)

Glad it's over. Enjoyed the snow. We'll be getting a heater soon, I'm sure. And, of course, we used a snow day from school, so no one had to go anywhere on Friday. What a fun day off.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Visit From Mom & Dad

I have been able to visit with my mom and dad for the last several days. It has been really fun. I miss them a lot and really enjoy the time that I'm able to spend with them. They are leaving here tomorrow to go to San Antonio to visit with my niece but then they will be coming back next week.

They brought us three huge boxes of giant oranges picked fresh off their own trees. Oh! They were SOOO good! Mmmmmm!!!

They also brought a few of my childhood toys so that I can display them in the spare bedroom. The toys that they brought were very special to me. I appreciate that they kept them in such good shape and had the forethought to keep them safe for me.

They also brought some wrought iron fencing that I am planning on hanging on the house somehow and planting a vine to climb up it.

And of course, they also brought several boxes of candy bars and put them in the house to call my name every time I passed. ugh! But good!

I do wish I lived closer so I could visit with them more often. But until that happens, I will cherish all the time that I can be with them to visit, laugh, eat and just plain ol' have fun.

Thanks, mom & dad, for being the best mom & dad that a girl can ask for.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting Ready to Foster Children

It seems like a crazy dream. I've been wanting to care for medically fragile children for a very long time. I started taking the courses way back in 1995 when I first became divorced. I thought that it might be a good way to bring in some extra income and still be available for my own children. Then I found out that I had to be divorced for a minimum of one year. I dropped the courses thinking that I would finish later.

Then I met and married Craig. Between the two of us, we had eight kids, and the number of children in a household are limited for foster care. So, I needed to wait until at least three of my own children were above the age of eighteen, and I had to have a spare bedroom. This all happened about the time that Linda moved out a couple of years ago.

So Craig and I signed up for the classes and travelled to Tyler about 60 miles away twice a week for about six weeks. When we thought that we were ready for the home inspection, the worker came into our house and saw some wrinkled wallpaper in the master bathroom. Immediately he told us that the house would never pass.

Just think how disappointed Craig and I were, knowing that our house was very old and needed a lot of work; more work than we had either the time or the money for.

Over the next couple of years, we finished rooms, sheetrocked and painted, completed little projects here and there until finally we thought we might be ready again. To our dismay, the classes that we took all summer long were no longer valid. One only has a year from finishing the classes to get licensed and it had been several.

I called a different agency hoping that things might be just a little bit easier if I chose one a little bit closer to home. I begged them to come out to the house first, to see if in their opinion things were close enough to proceed. Good news. They encouraged us to retake all the classes and get just a couple of things in order.

It took us eight hours a day, every Saturday in May to take all of the classes. We needed little courses here and there off the internet, updated our CPR, and had to find proof of all the little things like insurance on the car, our household income, etc., etc,. etc.

We had a hard time finding anyone who would do the fire inspection. Everyone that we talked to told us they didn't do them. Frustrated, I called a few more numbers and finally was able to contact the Fire Chief of Edgewood who came out immediately (that very day, in fact) and got us passed.

Then I forgot that Ryan had turned eighteen and needed finger printing, and a couple of other things, but finally, we felt we were once again ready.

I made the appointment for the 4 1/2 hour interview with all the family in the home.

And we passed! Finally!!!

And what overwhelming emotions that hit me by surprise. First, I felt relief, then was overcome with utter exhaustion. I started worrying about whether I would be able to take care of a medically fragile child or not. I thought of all the date nights and wondered if they were finished. I worried whether I would have to give up my callings at church, then wondered if I would now become inactive. I thought of Kelly, my after school job. Would I be able to continue taking care of her, or would I have to cut back drastically, or even quit all together? Such emotions I had not expected.

Its been a couple of days, and I'm feeling better again. I know I can do the job. I've been caring for medically fragile children for 22 years now. What makes me think I can't do it all of a sudden? Thinking about hiring someone to care for the child if they are not able to attend church has put my mind at ease about my callings. And Kelly's mom and I have come up with some backup plans "just in case," of what, I'm still not sure. But at last, my concerns are fading and once again I am excited to welcome a child into my home that needs the care that I can provide.

God gave me a little single talent. Would I hide this little talent under a stone, and return to Him with just one talent? Or will I make this talent grow, and bring back to him twice as many, and have Him say to me, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." I want to do all I can with the talent that God has given me.
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About Me

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I grew up in northern California, moved several times and finally landed in east Texas. Life is wonderful. I have a lot of children, all of which give me so much joy. Thanks to my Heavenly Father for answering the overwhelming number of fervent prayers over my lifetime. He is very good to me.

I just became Primary Chorister in December and thought that I would put everything that I do online. Mainly for myself, but I thought that if anyone else could use this stuff, have at it!