Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Holidays ....

were absolutely fabulous. First, we were just so happy to be together. Because there were a few moments we weren't so sure that would happen. But I was home, and we were together. And thanks to the surgery, I was not only home, but able to get out of bed (which hadn't happened much the week or two before Christmas!).


And of course, the kids were adequately spoiled. Which, frankly, this year, I think is great. They earned it. The best part of course is they were very thankful for all they were blessed with.


Eric and I were also spoiled this year. Our entire family was shown a lot of kindness and generosity, from so many places. It just really deeply touched us. Some of this kindness came to us from complete strangers and again, I keep saying it, but the love we are receiving is just overwhelming.


I'm so thankful we had such a lovely Christmas. I'm so thankful to each person who helped make this Christmas so lovely too - our families, friends, strangers, doctors, everyone who sent out a prayer and a good thought for us.

And now Christmas is over. And a new year is almost upon on (just 6 hours away as I type this!). I can't lie. I have no sadness seeing 2011 end. I don't know what 2012 has in store for us, but I am hoping that 2012 is much less boring, requires many fewer doctor's visits, and is a year in which our family can continue to grow stronger and closer.

I really hope all of you had fabulous holidays as well. And I pray that 2012 is a year filled with wonderful things!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Howdy all!

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season this year. Christmas at our yesterday was so fabulous. Mostly, we were all just so excited to be together, and the presents weren't bad either. We were all, once again, very spoiled and feel very blessed by all that we received.

But truly, for Eric and I, me being home and able to participate is what really made yesterday special. Because on Friday as we were heading to the ER, neither of us was sure what was going to happen at all. And we just kept going to worst case scenario .... I was trying to tell him all my part of the Christmas giving. He was trying to calm me down. We both were trying to figure out how we'd spend Christmas apart and mostly how could we ease that for our kids. Needless to say, it wasn't the most fun drive to the hospital.

So let me back up a bit. I know Eric filled you in some. But right before Thanksgiving I started having some soreness in my right chest/arm area. But of course, I was still undergoing radiation, so a lot of it made sense. But we ruled out a blood clot and started PT, thinking I could be in the beginning stages of lymphedema. And then after Thanksgiving the pain intensified and was spreading. But at the same time, I was diagnosed with bronchitis, so mostly the coughing was blamed. But things kept getting worse. And then we thought maybe my nerves were over-active because of all the trauma I had been through. But the pain got worse. And late last week, I pretty much headed to bed and didn't move unless absolutely necessary. And things just kept getting worse.

Last week on Tuesday it was so bad I called my plastic surgeon (not really knowing who else to call, but knowing they had been good about it in the past and feeling like no one else was really helping) and asked for stronger painkillers than what I had at home because they just weren't touching the pain anymore. Wednesday I went in to see the doctor. He checked me over and mentioned I might have an infection so he prescribed some antibiotics (and also? An even stronger pain killer than the day before because that one wasn't helping either).

Somewhere in the midst of all of this I began to run some fevers. And Wednesday night it jumped up to roughly 104 degrees. Eric was worried, but frankly I was beyond the point of caring. {At this point, the 3 kids were all with my mom}. We got it lower, but it stayed around. Thursday Eric and my doctor had talked a few times. Eric came home from work Thursday, supposed to have picked up our kids but only bringing home the oldest. He told me the two younger kids were going to stay with my mom and he was taking our oldest to her friend's. So they got her all ready to go and Eric took her to her friends.

When he got home he dropped the big bomb on me. Doctor was worried the infection was below the skin in which case surgery to remove the expander would be happening tomorrow. {Hence, him finding care for the kids instead of keeping them home}. At this point, I won't lie. I lost it. I was just a wreck of tears, pain killers, antibiotics, fever. Because while I'm not an extremely vain person, I still didn't want to lose my boob. We've spent most of the last year figuring out how to keep them both as normal looking as we can during all of this.

Anyway, Friday morning came. And things weren't better. And so off we went to the ER (we coordinated with my plastic surgeon and went to the hospital he was at). And that's the point Eric stepped in and let you all know what was going on.

The good news in all of this, the pain issues? Are gone. I'm sore from surgery for sure and having discomfort for sure. But the pain issues that have been plaguing me for a month now were gone when I woke up from surgery. So we did the right thing. And it will turn out okay in the end. Truthfully though? I feel like I have a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. But I'll wait to unpack all of that after the holidays have passed. Right now I just want to enjoy time with the family and let my body finally start healing.    

Friday, December 23, 2011

Post Surgery update

Hello all, it is the husband again.

Brandie is done with surgery.  This was the right call.  The surgeon found a problem and corrected it.  One of her temporary implants had to be removed.  She is not happy about this part, but certainly will be glad to be feeling better.

It was such good news to hear from the doctor.  Especially given the fact that just a few hours ago there was still uncertainty and that we knew this action once done would result in yet another setback to her reconstruction.  As her husband, it is hard to see someone you love so much in so much pain.  She was stuck for so many days, struggling to control the pain, while trying being a mother, teacher, wife, etc. 

She needs some time to recover, but the next post you see should be from her and hopefully it will be further good news.  Thanks everyone!


Update on Brandie

Hello everyone,

This is the husband.  You've probably wondered where Brandie has been at the past couple of weeks. 

During the 2nd to last week of November she started dealing with a lot of pain in the area of radiation.  Initially dismissed as side effects that pain has persisted.  It reached a point where this pain has dominated her life and has kept her from functioning.  Including updating this blog.

So keeping things short and G - rated, the doctors believe she has an infection.  We are at the hospital now.  She will be undergoing surgery in about an hour.  If all goes well she will be back home for Christmas.  Even more hopeful is that this surgery will end the pain that Brandie has been in the past couple of weeks.

Please keep her in your thoughts & prayers.
Thank you,

Friday, December 09, 2011

So, um, now what?

I've been asked that several times since yesterday's wonderful news. Well the truth is I'm not 100% sure because I haven't discussed long term with all my doctors, but I do have a general idea of what will happen.

I will continue to get herceptin every 3 weeks. Every other visit (so every 6 weeks) I will meet with the oncologist. We'll talk about how I'm doing. He'll continue to monitor me. This will last until roughly Julyish. At that point I think for one year I will see him every 3 months, then every 6 months, until one point we hit yearly visits. He also started me on tamoxifen this week. I will stay on that (just a pill) for a minimum of 5 years. {Note if my ovaries come out during this 5 year period, I will stop tamoxifen and switch to a different medicine that does that same thing in women without ovaries}

I will visit with my breast specialist (the doctor who originally diagnosed me) every 6 months for a clinical exam. Which is a fancy of way saying the doctor will feel around to check how things are going. This is because I do not get mammograms anymore. Since I no longer have breasts (yes, this is how I look at it: I will blog more, but for now know that I call what I have foobs = fake boobs).

I have a follow-up visit with the radiologist. At this time, I do not know if anymore follow-ups take place.

I am still being watched by my plastic surgeon. We are watching to see how the skin heals and I am eager for him to tell me I am ready for what should be final plastic surgery. Hopefully in 3-6 months from now I will go in and have the tissue expanders replaces and permanent implants put in. I'm told this is a billion times easier than my surgery in May. After I heal from that we will do the finishing touches of making the foobs look more real (a tattooed areola and adding nipples).

I am starting physical therapy this week. I will go weekly for at least a month. We are on watch for lymphodema. And also, during radiation I lost some of my range of motion in my right arm and I've lost quite a bit of strength. So it's time to start healing and working on getting back to where I was.

During this entire time, I will also be watched extra by my gynecologist. More specifically, she will be watching my ovaries. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer is closely linked. I will not be allowed to keep my ovaries past the age of 40. My doc will be ultrasounding them (probably) every year and she already warned me, if the tiniest thing looks off, they are coming out. So you know sometime between now and 8 years from now.

I realize this post sounds a bit clinical doesn't it? It's because there's a reality behind all of this that I didn't talk about yesterday - but probably will a lot in the future. You may have noticed I did not use the word cure yesterday. Because I am not cured. In some doctors won't use the language "all clear" (although I did). Because here is the full meaning of what I posted yesterday: There is no detectable cancer in my body at the moment.

Just stop and think about that for a minute. Now, in a perfect world this would mean the cancer will never come back. And in a perfect world it would mean there is absolutely no cancer in my body right now. The truth is we don't know that. No one can assure me of that. No one can make those sorts of statements to me. Because breast cancer is a fickle bitch and can strike again at any time .... 6 months from now, 2 years from now, 7 years from now .... well, you get the idea.

And don't get me wrong, I am THRILLED with yesterday's news - beyond thrilled even. But I won't lie to you. There will always be a part of that thinks my thumb hurts - is the cancer back? or I have the worst headache - is the cancer back? or I feel a lump - is the cancer back?

For now? For today? I'm sort of ignoring all of that and focusing on the good news. And going to focus on getting stronger and healthier and really recovering from the beating my body has taken this year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Popping in quickly ....

Just a quick note - and you are going to want to read until the end my friends.

So I kept getting sick and landed myself in the ER Monday morning. They checked me in and held me overnight and I came home yesterday afternoon.

While I was in the ER, the oncologist came to visit me and I asked him if he could give me the bone scan results I had last week. He pulled them up and let me know they were "inconclusive" and we'd need to check the spot that was on both the original and this scan. I can not tell you how much this news frustrated me. But since I was already in the hospital he ordered an x-ray of the leg and told me if that didn't show what was going on, we'd do more exploration of the area. I felt crushed.

Anyway, I had an appointment with him today and kept it. And today he let me know, the spot on my leg that was popping up on the bone scan? It was benign! Nothing to be worried about! So, it's official, I AM ALL CLEAR!!!! There is at this point and time no detectable cancer in my body anywhere. I still can't believe it. I'm so relieved, so happy, so just completely over-joyed.

And now I'm going to go because I feel like I need to celebrate and also? Still rest as I'm still not all clear of the bronchitis that sent me to the hospital. But? At the same time I'm feeling absolutely fabulous and just so grateful to get such wonderful news today! =)