March 6 – Back from Vegas and no problems whatsoever! Didn’t feel like I could tackle the world but certainly felt better than I have for awhile. No problems at all flying, not even a hint of a leg cramp! Yea! Yippee! Hurray! Convention went well, great students, great contacts, and got lots of work for the coming year so all in all very successful. I met up for the first time with a sister BC survivor from Chicago and her friends and we all went to the Paris hotel for lunch. On our way there it snowed!!!!!!!!!!!!! How cool to see snow in Las Vegas! How fun to meet another survivor and have a nice normal lunch! I got home at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday, Harold and I went to breakfast, I came home and slept for a couple of hours and off we went to Home Depot! Got lots of plants and more bricks for my wall (Greta Gardener was in heaven!) and spent the rest of the day outside breathing fresh air and making contact with the dirt! You know I must be feeling better to have flown most of the night and then garden all day!
Tomorrow morning is the Endoscopy and then in the afternoon I go for blood work and a shot of Burning Aranesp. If my hemoglobin count is up enough I will have surgery for Gigantor Dolly next Wednesday. The insurance company finally came through and reversed their original denial so I am good to go with that part anyway. My knee is killing me but that is just old age and I will tackle that problem when all the rest of this is done. In the grand scheme of things right now that is a minor irritation!
March 7 – No Endoscopy for me today! They called to confirm my procedure on Thursday and I said my paperwork said Wednesday so we spent a good bit of time on the phone checking and yes my paperwork did say that but he would not be there today and I am on the schedule for Thursday. Good thing they called. I would have been very angry to not have even a drop of water after midnight, show up at 8:00 a.m., have Harold take time off work just to be told I was there on the wrong day even though my paper work was correct!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Will go for my blood work and Burning Aranesp shot this afternoon. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my blood count will be up enough for me to have surgery next week!
I was very, very angry awhile ago and had to calm down before I could even write about this. I was crying and my chest hurt I was so mad! I am in contact with a woman who had cancer and one breast removed and is trying to decide if she should have her remaining breast removed for future safety’s sake like I did. She is beside herself with stress, doubts and fears and after hearing her story I am not at all surprised! When she was first diagnosed in 2004 she wanted a bilateral mastectomy since she had to have one done anyway and wanted to prevent further cancer possibilities since her kind of cancer was known to travel to the remaining breast. Her doctors told her she was hysterical and overreacting to the situation and one of the doctors was even a woman! Her oncologist told her she needed psychiatric intervention and that what she wanted done was a form of self-mutilation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Needless to say she does not have those doctors anymore. However, they did not do the bilateral then and now the doctors she has are recommending she have the other breast removed and she is not too happy about having another surgery but does not want to wait until cancer shows up there either. I just can hardly believe some of the things that people tell me their doctors or nurses have said to them. For the most part I hear good things but once in awhile, like this, I hear where a doctor has imposed his or her own beliefs onto their patients and did not take the patients needs or wishes into consideration at all. Makes my blood boil! Eeek! I can’t do that - I don’t have enough blood right now as it is, can’t be boiling it away!!!!!!!!!!!
Now for education. I have a very dear friend whose husband passed away just a few months ago from pancreatic cancer. She wrote the following and said I could include it here as I feel it is very important and very sobering information. She writes: “In mid-April there is a lobby for pancreatic cancer in Washington D.C. It is for 2 days, one for orientation and the other for speaking to Congressmen on the need for pancreatic research. It seems to be a way for me to turn something that was so devastatingly horrible into something positive. As I research, I've been appalled at the lack of funding, 1% for pancreatic. It is estimated 29,000 will be diagnosed with the disease this year and 28,000 of those will die in a year or less. Of the thousand that remain, possibly only 5% (fifty) will live 5 years. Even when "cured", the disease generally reoccurs, even with surgery. When I see what has been done for breast, lung, and prostate cancers, I have to wonder why pancreatic has been practically ignored when it's the No. 4 cancer killer. My friend lost her husband 2 years ago from pancreatic and a friend of hers also lost her husband about that time, same disease. A second grade teacher and our minister both died from pancreatic cancer. A 54 year old policeman in our town died from it and when then a 70 year old deacon had died from it. Since January, I've read of 3 people in the paper I didn't know, a 47 year old high school coach, a 39 year old mom, and a 63 year old artist. It seems like this disease rampant. This seems to be beyond what might be considered average. The more information I come across, the more passionate I begin to feel about attending the lobby. Our children are at risk if hereditary factors are involved and this is a grave concern of mine. There are tests that I didn't even know of that could be done to catch it early on. Family physicians most likely don't do them, but an oncologist might. If mammograms are part of a physical, I don't understand why something as simple as a stool sample isn't done for pancreatic.” I was stunned by this and didn’t know myself that the nasty Hemoccult test could detect that. I won’t complain about having to do that again! I will admit that before this bout with the anemia I have been given that test to do but never did it because it was so gross. My regular doctor never mentioned it again so neither did I. Now I will be the one asking to do the test every year when I get my check-up.
I must tell you of a woman I had in one of my classes in Vegas. She was sooooooooo amazing. I always mention about being a two time breast cancer survivor when I am teaching because I want women to see me up there teaching, traveling, living my life. Always there are multiple people in class who have also had cancer and most everyone knows someone who has been affected by this disease in one form or another. Some share their story with me. This one lady was busy painting away and doing a fine job of it and after I talked about my cancer she called me over and told me she was a four time survivor and the last time it got into the bones in her left arm and she had to have it amputated. I never had a clue and she was using the prosthesis to paint and I had been to her several times and never noticed anything, in fact she was doing very well. If that is not amazing enough, we spoke about how your life changes and how you reset your priorities and she said she had always wanted to get a Class A drivers license so she did and now she drives eighteen wheelers for a living!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She definitely did not have a “poor me” attitude! She said she treats cancer like a chronic disease, she also got type 2 diabetes from the chemo like I did, so she just treats them as needed and gets on with her life. Say “Hurray” out loud for that woman and I am sure she will feel the vibes!
March 8 – Hurray! Endoscopy is done! Actually turned out to be a piece of cake! The nurse got the IV started first try with just a little prick that hardly hurt. After awhile the anesthesiologist came in and explained all about the anesthetic they would be using. A new one called Propofol. Considered “unconscious anesthesia,” not as deep as general nor as light as twilight which is considered a “conscious anesthesia.” After he explained all that he put some medication into the IV drip that would dry out the back of my throat (as if I wasn’t dry already with nothing, not even water since midnight!). He said the Endoscopy tube hitting the back of my throat would cause it to release liquid (or something like that) and they didn’t want that to happen. Didn’t feel the effects of that until way later on the way to breakfast and then it felt like I had a sponge in my mouth sucking out all the moisture! Anyway, after that I get wheeled into the procedure room (same room in which I had my colonoscopy – oh yea) and I get hooked up to all sorts of monitors. Last thing I remember is them inserting a squarish yellow “device” into my mouth to hold it open and to allow the tube to be inserted and securing it around the back of my head. Next thing I remember is then saying I was all done and wheeling me out to the recovery area! I felt fine, just thirsty. Had to wait thirty minutes before I could be unhooked and go home. During that time the doctor came in and told me he didn’t find anything except some inflammation and he thinks that is from before when I was taking my aspirin products without the Prilosec. He took some biopsies and I go back on the 20th for the results but he feels they will not show up anything. That was good news but not surprising since both he and my oncologist felt that it would be negative. Then they gave me a glass of Seven-Up with ice to be sure my sugar didn’t drop and to slack my thirst a bit and told me to eat a light meal soon after I left there, not greasy, for the first meal. Unhooked me from all the various tubes and cords and wires, I got dressed, got in a wheelchair and off we went to meet Harold at the front door. Since we were in the same parking lot as Dr. J’s offices I went there next, complete with all my arm bands, to drop off my blood work report to see if I was okay for surgery next week. As I was leaving I ran into him in the hallway and he said I was okay for surgery so all is on for next Wednesday when Gigantor Dolly will be replaced by Just Plain Dolly. It will be sooooooo good to see Just Plain Dolly again!
Harold and I then went on to breakfast and on the way home I got really sleepy. Came in and promptly went to sleep in my recliner for about four hours! It is now 8:30 p.m. and I am wide awake and feeling really good! Just finished painting the doors to my new storage cabinet and now I shall work for the next few hours to try and get caught up a bit.
I am a free woman until next Tuesday (this is Thursday) except for getting my hair colored and trimmed (I cannot go for surgery with roots!) I will do my hair the morning of surgery and have on all my eye makeup except for the mascara! You know I am vain! Actually I look at it this way, really and truly speaking, my only good features are my face and hair – the body has never been that good and I have the ugliest legs in the entire world! Guess I want them to see I have some redeeming features! It will make me feel better and that is what counts in these situations. Doing it for my own self-esteem not for the hospital staff. You really must do whatever makes you feel good in these situations, makes you feel more in control I think. It does me anyway! On Tuesday I go for my blood work and my Burning Aranesp shot in the morning and then to the hospital for more blood work and an EKG for surgery the following day. What a fun day that will be! I think I will round up Kerrie Kickass and make her go with me!
March 11 – Last night Weepy Wanda and Feelingverysorryformyself Francine kidnapped Pollyanna and hid her in a closet for hours! I was minding my own business, watching Sixth Sense, a movie I had seen before and it was not a tear-jerker the first time I watched it and all of a sudden I was crying at one of the scenes. It was moving but not that moving! Then something else came along and I was crying even harder! “What is going on here” I asked myself? I began to wallow in self-pity (felt good even though I was crying!) and to be truthful after an hour or so I was angry and thought to myself, “I am so freaking tired of tests, procedures and surgeries!” I know my upcoming surgery is necessary, I know that scar tissue is a known risk, I know that the port needs to come out, I know that I need to have my blood checked and get a shot………….I KNOW all that and I will do it because I really do need to, but…………………..“I am so freaking tired of tests, procedures and surgeries!”
I am okay this morning but a bit tired form all that crying! Weepy Wanda and Feelingverysorryformyself Francine finally let Pollyanna out of the closet but made her go away for awhile and got Realistic Rea to take her place.
March 13 – Went and had my blood tested and got my Burning Aranesp shot. Blood count was down a bit, from 10.9 to 10.4 and I guess I looked crushed because the nurse told me that the Aranesp really began to kick in with the fourth shot and that was the one I had today. I’m still okay for surgery. So I got stuck twice there. Came home and had lunch then went to the hospital for pre-op stuff. Of course the blood work done at the oncologist’s was not all that was needed for surgery so I got stuck again! No wonder my blood count is down, they keep taking it from me! Got an EKG and was cleared for surgery tomorrow. Now have to come up with a nice outfit that meets all the needs of tomorrow. Pants that are easy to get off and on, same for the shoes, and a big, loose shirt that buttons down the front to accommodate the bandages and to not cause stress on my stitches. Think I’ll do beige and brown. I’ll do my hair and add some eye make-up and I will be “good to go!” would that be Fashionista Faye?
A bit down in the dumps today, guess that would be Downinthedumps Dora wouldn’t it! Anyway, I want to be done but I don’t want to go have to do it! But, laundry is done, house is clean, yard looks decent, patio has new flowers for me to enjoy when I go out there to read and relax and recover, fridge is stocked and the car has gas. Did I forget anything? Oh yes, fresh sheets on the bed! Okay, I am ready for anything!
March 14 – It is over! It is 9:00 at night and I am home in my comfy outfit and surgery is behind me. And…………..I am fine!
Last night I did something to my shoulder, the right one of course where I was having surgery! I don’t know if I slept wrong, rolled over and pulled something or what but after being asleep on my left side for about tow hours I woke up to roll over onto my back like I do every night and when I do that I have to wait a couple of minutes for my right breast area to settle back down and it is (Was!!!) very painful. Well………….that didn’t happen, I had a pain that wouldn’t let me get a deep breath. After about five minutes of this I went ahead and got up since I could tell it was not going away. I was up the rest of the night trying to find a comfortable spot to rest in and finally found one a half an hour before I had to get up to prepare for surgery! The pain seemed to concentrate around my chemo port and I wondered if I had managed to pull it loose or twist it in some way. Unlikely, I thought, since I have had it since November of 2005! Got myself ready, hair done, makeup on my eyes – just pencil eyeliner, enough so I didn’t look like a washer woman! Took me twice as long as I expected as I had to stop and rest due to the pain. We get there at 6:00 a.m., I go back to get all prepped and tell everyone about my shoulder so they are aware. Had to take all my clothes off, of course, except I got to keep my panties on! Hurray! Somehow you feel dressed in a hospital if you have your panties on! Luckily I had worn nice ones! The wonderful nurse got that IV in my hand on the first try and used a small needle and I was soooooooooooooooooooo okay after that. Getting the IV in is my greatest fear with surgeries or procedures. Dr. J came in and marked Gigantor Dolly with a marking pen and told me she had gotten bigger since he had seen me. He asked if I was sure I wanted her smaller and that maybe we should make the other one as big. He was joking of course, but it helped to ease my tension. Back on the bed I go, they put massaging stockings on my legs (I love those things) as the anesthesiologist is talking to me about that part of the surgery. Then in comes the surgery nurse with my “party hat” (those dreadful shower caps things they make you wear) and says that no one can come to the party without a hat! By this time they had given me something to make me sleepy and I was quite relaxed. Didn’t even know I had a sore shoulder by then! It is about 8:00 a.m. and off we go and the last I remember was going into the operating room. Surgery was about two hours, woke up in the recovery room with a nice normal sized boob! Just Plain Normal Dolly is back! And no chemo port! I felt okay then from the anesthesia although later on I got a bit nauseous and they had to give me something for it. Dr. J came in and told me (things are a bit fuzzy here I will get the full scoop next week when I go in for my post-op visit) that I had a hematoma that was mostly fluid and some blood, not enough to account for the anemia and I am not sure right now if there was any scar tissue or, if so, only very little. And I have the Nasty Drain! Geez Louise, I really don’t like those things. He said he had to irrigate the area where the hematoma was with steroids so my blood sugar would be out of whack for today as well, and there just being a lot of extra fluid I needed the drain. He spoke to Harold, too, and Harold seems to think there was no scar tissue at all. That would be so very good if there was none and it was just fluid build-up. Dr. J. said he didn’t know exactly why I had the fluid under there but felt like it was chemo treatment related. He said the old implant was just fine but he put in the new one anyway. He sent everything off to be biopsied but said there was nothing that looked suspicious. I will get those results next week, too. My throat is a bit sore from the anesthesia tube but the anesthesiologist told me that might be the case. Was in recovery a couple of hours as they had given me morphine and then I got nauseous. Before we left Harold got a lesson in emptying the “grenade” and she took out 20 ml of fluid. You could see it was clear fluid and blood both. Have to empty it every twelve hours or if it gets halfway full. I find that whole thing disgusting! Luckily Harold and Jen don’t mind at all taking care of it! Finally got home about 1:30, got nauseous again from the car ride but it passed. Good! I HATE to throw-up! Jen was here for the afternoon shift and Harold went and got my pain medication and the antibiotic, then he went to work and I settled in with Jen for the afternoon in my recliner. My shoulder still hurt but was better. Dozed off and on all afternoon and evening and of course now I am wide awake! Harold just emptied out the drain and there was 30ml this time, about two tablespoons, still pale red. Yuk! We have to record the output for the next week and hopefully I will be able to get the drain out when I go back to see Dr. J. Will take my pain med soon so should be out shortly after that. Going to sleep in my recliner tonight mainly because of my shoulder. It is doing much better now and I don’t want to aggravate it.
I feel so much better now that all that fluid is gone and my chest muscles and skin are not all stretched out. Getting ready to take of the top bandages now. They are some kind of foam things as I am allergic to paper tape! Makes water blisters on my skin wherever the tape is on my skin!
I look even more normal now. Just a very small incision where the port was and he went back into the original scar from the mastectomy surgery over on the far right and it is only about an inch and a half long. There is still lots of foam tape under Dolly on my stomach area that is covering where the drain tube is inserted in my chest. It snakes in up to the top area of my breast and when it is ready to come out he just pulls it out like a tie on a hooded sweatshirt! At least there is only one drain this time. I have it pinned up onto my shirt so it doesn’t put any strain on the incision or the tape over the incision. Skin is just a bit sore where Harold pulled the tape off but other than that I am quite comfortable. For a day or so I will take the pain meds so I keep ahead of any pain. I guess since he didn’t have to scrape off scar tissue after all I will not be as sore. And, if you remember, I have no feeling in my breasts due to all the nerves being severed in the original mastectomy surgery. So all that could hurt would be the port incision and the drain tube incision and the very outer edges of my skin and muscles where they were stretched and have now gone down. All in all I am doing very well! Hurray! My knee doesn’t even hurt! No driving for a week, that is all! I was thinking two weeks so that was a pleasant surprise.
Enough for tonight, I can feel the good ole’ pain pill beginning to take effect so I think I will go get comfy for the night! Relieved Rena is ready for bed!
March 15 – I feel fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Up at 6:00 with Harold after a wonderful night’s rest, one of the cats curled up with me all night. I did sleep in my recliner and I was sooooooooooooooooo comfy. Took a pain med and by 7:00 I was going back to sleep. No problem as resting is what I am supposed to do for the next week. I feel so good though I could go out and play in my garden if I wasn’t a nice sensible woman! Instead I will read or embroider or write, things that will not strain my arm. I go see Dr. J next Wednesday and expect to be “released” to do as I please by then. Well, maybe I will have to behave for a bit longer but I really do feel great. It feels soooooooooooo good not to have a gigantic hurting boob! The surgery area just feels like I got a slight jab in the ribs. And my shoulder is fine, too. I guess whatever I pulled had something to do with all the stretched areas and now that the stress is gone from those areas so is the shoulder pain. Not even a twinge of it left. Life is sooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooood! Can you tell Happy Hannah is here! Hopefully she will hang around for a good long while!
I came across an interesting story and want to share it here. It is based on an old Cherokee legend (Harold is part Cherokee – a bit of trivia there!). Anyway a wise woman is talking to a younger woman who is about to start off on a long, dangerous journey. The wise woman says that she sees two wolves accompanying the younger woman on her journey. She tells her the wolves will be fighting each other along the way to see who gets to lead her on her journey. One of the wolves is life-denying and its name is FEAR. The other wolf is life-affirming and its name is HOPE. The younger woman asked which wolf would win and the wise woman said, “The one you feed.” Isn’t that an amazing story and so very, very, true.
One more, this one is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Pretty straightforward isn’t it. Sort of a long version of Nike’s “Just do it!”
Since I am feeling sooooooooooooooo fine and expect to only be writing good things for awhile I will end here on a nice positive note!
Photo of the Week – Click on image for a larger view. Last time you saw the view just as you come in the door from the den to the studio. This is the view if you look to the right on the far wall. Over the top of the drawing table you can see my office area. A huge bulletin board goes in between the small window on the left and the computer desk. I have it, we just haven’t had time to get it put up. The area above the big window will eventually be narrow shelves that will display my artwork without my having to hang it and put nails in the walls. Most of my artwork is still on the floor resting against the walls. Through the big window is a set of iron arches that have wisteria started over them and hanging baskets of bougainvillea hanging from them and azaleas and begonias growing under them. The old wooden fence separates our yard from our neighbor so I feel secluded in my little garden. I arranged all the plantings so that I see a beautiful setting from every window in my new studio. I am having such a good time creating my own special spaces! I love to be out here in the studio as much as I love being out in my garden. And the fact that we created most of it ourselves is a bonus to us. To others it is a huge amount of work but we still think it great fun!
Before I allow Pollyanna to sneak back in I will end this episode. She gets a bit too mushy for the real me!
Get tests and stay healthy!
Margot a.k.a.Great Gardener, Kerrie Kickass, Weepy Wanda, Feelingverysorryformyself Francine, Pollyanna, Realistic Rea, Fashionista Faye, Downinthedumps Dora, Relieved Rena and Happy Hannah.
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