Friday, April 22, 2011

Bone Scan Requested: Nerves on Fire or Wake Up Call?

I got a wake-up call this week. My oncologist left me a message that he is recommending a bone scan due to my liver panel being off, twice. I knew this fact would warrant another test of some sort. However, to date, the testing was at the recommendation of my primary care physician. So, to have my oncologist call to ask me to have a bone scan left my jaw on the floor and caused an avalanche of unexpected tears.

Mind you, I am TIRED! My first week back at work has been a blessing and a curse. Looming deadlines and stalled grant projects lead to a roller coaster of fire drills that I am making my way through. No worries. The pressure of grant deadlines has helped to keep my mind occupied.

Truth be told, I have been expecting to learn that I have weak bones due to chemo. The fact that these tests are off could be an indicator of any number of things. We are thinking positive.

I told my husband this morning that I think the fact that I have to have a bone scan is a good wake-up call. We both need to live a healthier lifestyle because like it or not, I am living the life of a cancer survivor. These tests will always mean a little bit more. I will probably always feel like I have dodged a bullet.

Today, I actually scheduled the bone scan for Tuesday, April 26. And as positive as I may sound, I have to admit that my nerves are on fire. There are butterflies in my stomach and I cannot sit still. Nothing that lunch with a girlfriend and another grant deadline can't cure though, hopefully. More to come......

Monday, April 11, 2011

A New Beginning

Bandages off,
First glimpse to be had,
A foreign curve, emulating,
A breast once natural and clad.

A diamond patch,
Back skin, no less,
Stitched ever so gently,
Hiding, beneath heavy compress.

Tears gently flowed,
As first sight is revealed.
This emotion, previously hidden,
While courageousness, unconcealed.

Those first moments,
Burned into my soul,
And onto my heart,
Lonely and beautiful.

The emotions of my journey,
Wrapped up in one patch of skin,
Perfectly represented,
By the stitches within.

Time to move on,
Healing, time will tell.
How lucky I am,
To survive, gracefully, the spell.

A new beginning, perhaps,
I will never be the same,
For all I have learned,
For all I have gained.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Latissimus Dorsi Breast Reconstruction Completed

On March 21, my long awaited latissimus dorsi breast reconstruction (on my right) was completed at Kaiser Hospital by Dr. Gregory Scott and my PA, Cindy Carson. I have not felt much like writing since, but not so much because of the physicality of the process or my lack of brain power that followed. But, because I could not figure out how to best describe my some of my feelings that hit me like an unexpected wave that hits an innocent beach.

In many, many ways, this was my hardest surgery yet. I was an emotional wreck, while in the hospital. This was also the most stressful surgery on my body. (Rather than explaining the entire surgery on my blog, I have included a link to an explanation of the procedure that you can review by clicking here.) The pain is easy for me to handle. I feel a bit like an old pro. I was prescribed narcotics. I am off of them now that the doctors are allowing me to take Ibuprofen.

I think what I could not wrap my head around was the the fact that my family and I had the least outside support to help with my recovery. I did not come home to flowers or a lot of cards. Only a couple of people called to check in, though many people responded on Facebook to my husband's post that I was out of surgery (thank you!). Perhaps, what was not known, perhaps by our own accord was that this surgery is the event where we needed the most every day help.

I know many would consider this an optional surgery. The cancer being gone kind of takes the drama out of the need for the surgery itself. However, the surgery was not optional in my mind. The cancer tore me down and for my own self image, I needed to be put back together.

I do not mean to sound like I am complaining, either. People are busy; I do not take this personally. My cancer journey has been a long and arduous process. We have had phenomenal support throughout. I just wanted to point out that those of us who have this surgery have little use of your arms. In addition, movement involving the twisting of the back is strongly discouraged. Repetitive motion is also discouraged. To put this in context, I cannot close a car door, carry a purse, sort laundry (much less do the laundry), load the dishwasher, cook dinner or carry anything more than a quart of milk. Two weeks after the surgery and off all narcotics, I have just started to drive again. Though, because of my limited ability to twist, my reaction times are a bit slower. That being said, I am not quite up for running errands, which is OK, because I still cannot push a shopping cart.

So, when I thought about framing this post, I thought it was important to stress these facts. And not because I want everyone to call me tomorrow and ask what I need. I wanted to put these thoughts out here for the next person. The person who might be reading this post and be planning for their own surgery. The person whose best friend is having this surgery and they want to know how to help. The person who does not know what to expect for their spouse.

On a positive note, my new boobs amaze me. To look down and see the diamond of back skin strategically forming the perfectly round shape of my new breast, blows me away. The scars are dark and ominous right now, but I know that they will fade with time. The new, nasty scar across my back does not bother me, because I do not have to look at it, a saving grace. I also have a new, perfectly round breast on my left side, thanks to the implant and the plastic surgery that replaced my original breast (a completely different procedure also performed on March 21). I am happy and proud of all I have endured to get me to this spot. I am proud of my parents, kids and family for helping me to get to this spot. I am especially proud of my husband for all he has endured emotionally and physically (i.e. running the household) helping me to get to this spot.

In closing, I want to reiterate that I did have support and am very grateful. Just in comparison to the support of my past surgeries, it was minimal. I also wanted to thank my mom for doing laundry and my mom and dad for running me and the kids to their practices, games, school events and doctor's appointments; my girlfriends and our family who brought us meals the first week; my brother and Kelly for coming from Portland to be with us that first weekend; and, the people who called and checked in/sent cards. We are truly honored that you took the time to do so. It made a big difference and most importantly, helped me relax at a time where my emotions were all over the place. Which could be another post all together, or maybe better yet, another poem, with the title, "A New Beginning."