Tag Archive | surgery

Morgan

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Me, Mom, and Weenie Chillin’

 

Hi my name is Morgan my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer when I was in kindergarten.  As you may know I wrote a post when I was 8. I am now 11 in fifth grade and she has had cancer for about 5 years.  When I look back it tells me my mom is STRONG.(of course I already thought that). She has fought this long and I will always love her in the present and the future.

THANK YOU, MORGAN

 

🙂   ❤    😉      ❤    ❤   ❤   🙂

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Warmth — Weekly Photo Challenge & Thoughts Of You…

 

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

 

I can’t believe I’ve allowed so much time to pass — again.  It just happens.  It’s so easy to let this happen.  And yet it is so difficult.  So difficult.

I’m doing it here.  I’m doing it in my life outside of this blog.  I’m doing it everywhere.

Pulling away.  Distancing myself.

And I don’t want to do this.

It just happens.

There is so much to tell you.  So much I should have shared with you about everything that has been going on.  But…

I’m just so tired.  So tired.  So tired of feeling awful.  Of being in pain.  Of being tired.  Of feeling sick.  Of vomiting.  Of everything…

And I realize how terrible that sounds.

I should be grateful to be here.  To be alive.  And I am.  But there is a part of me that feels as though maybe that just isn’t enough anymore.  That maybe quality — and not just quantity — of life is important, too.

Of course this is a complicated topic.  Even my own point of view changes throughout the day and as I lie awake at night often feeling too sick or in too much pain to sleep.  There is no easy answer where all of this cancer and cancer treatment “stuff” is concerned.  On the one hand, I (like so many) have been driven to do everything I can to survive.  But on the other hand, I never really considered how much collateral damage there would be.

Who really does?

For many of us — and for many of our oncologists — the goal really is survival and/or life extension.  Sure, there are consent forms and there’s a bit of discussion about the risks of our treatments, surgeries, etc.  But how many of us fully appreciate what the cost (and I’m not even addressing the financial toll…yet) of these sometimes Herculean efforts will be?

I’d venture to guess that the answer is “not too many.”

There is so much I want to say.  So much I want to tell you.  There are so many topics I’d like to cover here.  Questions I want to answer.  And I know I need to try to do better here.  To be present more.  To give this platform the respect it deserves.

In the New Year I hope to do better.  To tell you more.  Because there is so much to tell.  And to address the questions/issues/etc. that so many of you have written and asked me to address.

I will try…

For now I will say “hello again” and tell you that I’ve missed you and that I hope you are doing okay and that you had a nice holiday.  And I will thank you for continuing to stand by me, to check in, to care.  And I will tell you that you are appreciated more than you know…

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

And for old times’ sake I’ll leave you with our Christmas card and some photos that illustrate The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge topic—  “Warmth.”  — for me.  {If you would like to participate in the challenge, just click on the link above.}  In the Christmas card you’ll see two humans and two pups who warm my heart.

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

And in the fleece photos, you’ll see a literal example of warmth.  My boys (and one of their special friends) were asked to do a service project for school.  They chose to volunteer their time at one of my cancer centers, a place that is very dear to my heart.  They helped to prepare fleece ponchos to gift to new patients set to undergo radiation.

I’m not sure who first thought of the idea, but I know these warm ponchos will provide a bit of comfort for patients who will appreciate them, I’m sure.

The Cancer Center’s social worker was kind enough to give the boys a tour of the radiation suite that I once visited daily while I was undergoing that phase of my treatment so they could see where the patients will be wearing the ponchos.

Thank you, friend…  Sending my warmest wishes to you during the holidays and as we head into the New Year…  xxx

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns — Prelude to Toplessness

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As I was assembling photos for this week’s photo challenge, I stumbled across a file filled with photos from September 2010.  It was three years ago this month.

It’s safe to say that the dusty manila icon on my computer screen stopped me in my tracks.

It was filled with good memories from our trip to Florida with jme and my mom.  It was an important trip for many reasons.

I learned that I had cancer that April and had been having a horrible time with chemo ever since.  So when I finally had a break from the Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol and Herceptin, we found some supercheap last minute plane tickets and I threw our clothes in a suitcase.  We were off with just a day or two’s notice.  This was my attempt at finding the spontaneity I’d been told The Big C endows you with.

I remember being supersick but grateful to be there.

Especially because of what was looming over my head.  Other than the cancer thing, of course.  What loomed, large as life, was the fact that I would be returning home the day before the surgery I had been anticipating since April.  It was time for my bilateral mastectomy and complete axillary node dissection.  My tumors had finally shrunk enough to make my formerly “inoperable” cancer “operable.”

I’m explaining all of this because I looked at the shots of superbald me smiling next to my family in Treasure Island, Florida, and I was filled with the same sense of dread that plagued me on that trip each time I stopped to consider my reality.

And then I skipped ahead one image too far and saw myself in the hospital bed.  Days after my surgery.  Showing my bruised body and bandages and blood-filled drains to the camera with a vacant look in my blue eyes.

For all the time I’ve spent in hospitals, there aren’t that many photos of me within their walls.  But I recall thinking that it would be important for me to have some photos from my weeklong post-surgical stay — in case I ever wanted to document my experience in some way.  There are only a handful of photos, but there are enough to make me swallow hard.  Pictures of me with bandages, and some without, as I look at my incisions for the first time.

Fast forward three years and here we are.  I have this blog, this platform, and I think I am ready to share.

But not just yet…

I still need a day or so to wrap my head around what I am about to show you before I post the images.  And, who knows, maybe I won’t be able to post all of them?  Maybe it will be too much for typically modest me?  I truly hope not, because I think this is an important part of my story.  An important reality that needs to be shared to blow a hole in all that pink frilly nonsense that makes breast cancer seem less serious, less deadly, less disfiguring.

So please bear with me as I summon the courage to post this pivotal piece of my story.

In the meantime I will lighten the mood with this week’s challenge photos.  Titled “From Lines to Patterns,” this challenge tasks us with interpreting lines and patterns through the camera lens:

“We see lines and patterns in the world around us, in nature and things man-made. Sometimes we don’t realize they’re there: on the street, across the walls, up in the sky, and along the ground on which we walk.  So…grab your camera, get outside, and snap a great shot of shapes or lines that you stumble upon, or a cool texture or pattern that catches your eye.”

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s color weekly photo challenge daily post

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My little W

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“Under Construction” — Spring 2007 — I’m wearing the same clothes I was wearing in this photo right now! (But the pants are tighter!)

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The beginning of Autumn at the Christmas tree farm

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M climbing the giant web

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Stripes and patterns: Max, our Leopard gecko, was a gift for my 20th birthday. In her younger years she was a vibrantly-colored patterned beauty (for a reptile, anyway!). This was her last picture — she died of old (15 years!) age later than night.

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My Mam’s “Fancy Jell-O”

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NYC

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Thank you for visiting, for looking at this hodgepodge of photos, and for standing by me as I share my story.  I am a grateful girl.

See you soon…

P.S. To participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here or here.

Mistaken for the Bride of Frankenstein — Part II

[May 6, 2013]

breast cancer thirties 30's 30s skin cancer mohs surgery

So I had the Mohs Microsurgery / Chemosurgery last Tuesday morning.  I was grateful for all of the kind comments on Mistaken for the Bride of Frankenstein and Skin Cancer, Too?  Really?!  You really gave me the courage to face another surgery and another type of cancer.  Of course this surgery was nothing compared to the others and this cancer was just a bump in the road, but I think I would have continued to push this surgery out even further if it weren’t for all of you.

I have been meaning to post about what the experience was like, but it was such a difficult week that I just couldn’t manage it.  And then I thought the Frank and Nancy post was much more important. I will begin with what has happened to my face since the surgery.  Quite simply, my face has swollen beyond recognition.  I wish I were exaggerating.  On a positive note, they say it will get better — but that it will take a week or two to do so.  I’ll take it — I’m just glad this won’t be permanent!  And so are the kids, who looked horrified when they saw me this morning and told me that it was getting worse! Back to the procedure.

As you know, I was quite nervous about this one!  Fortunately, my lovely friend jme was here and she not only made me feel better about going, but she got the boys ready for school so we could leave at 7:40 a.m. for the hospital.

H (husband) dropped me off in the hospital loop and I made my way up to the Mohs Surgery Department.  I haven’t mentioned it before (this is another post I haven’t gotten to!), but we have had a photojournalism student (Jennifer) following us around for the past couple of months to document our lives as a family dealing with the effects of cancer.  Jennifer met me just outside the doors and began taking photos as I walked to the check-in desk and made my way to the waiting area. H met us in the waiting area about 10 minutes later.  He promptly found a magazine and took a seat.  When they came to collect me to prep me for the surgery and asked if I would like to bring someone back with me for this part since I had skipped out of the pre-op / question-answering appointment, H didn’t look up from his magazine.  Apparently, reading about the life and times of Billie Joe (Green Day’s frontman) was more riveting than what was about to happen to my face and asking questions about the cancer growing on my forehead.  Normally this wouldn’t bother me.  But this morning it did because I was so unenthusiastic about the surgery that I think I was visibly shaken.  So when Jennifer asked if she could follow me back, I did not object.

We were taken to a large, bright room with a special chair — it looked like one of the birthing chairs from Star Trek: The Next Generation — positioned in its center.  Jennifer asked the nurse if she would be allowed to take photographs, so the nurse left to see if the surgeon would allow this.  When she came back with an “okay” for photographing everything but the surgery, the prep began.

A second nurse arrived, and after asking me some questions and cleaning my forehead, they began injecting my forehead to anesthetize the area. After massaging the anesthetic in, waiting, and testing the area to see if it was truly numb, the nurses left to get the surgeon.

When Dr. B arrived, he discussed the procedure, used a black marker to outline the area he’d be cutting, and described what my scar would look like. Then he asked if I had any questions.  At jme’s urging, I asked if he could make my scar look like Harry Potter’s.  He smiled, said yes, and walked out, promising to return when my prep was finished. After he left, the nurses draped my head with sterile cloths, rechecked the numbness of the area, and asked Jennifer to leave.

When Dr. B returned, he looked at my online chart and said that he thought it was safe to say that I had been through a lot.  So he then assured me that he would do his best to get as much as he could in the first round so he wouldn’t have to put me through anything more than necessary.  I thanked him and then tried to go to my happy place as I felt the cold instruments touch my head. I’m not sure how much time passed before he said that he needed the cautery.  I asked if I had forgotten to mention that I was on blood thinners.  Yes, I had.  I could smell burning flesh.

Then he continued, and cauterized more because I continued to bleed. And eventually he was done.  He cauterized some more, and then they put a pressure bandage on my head, and escorted me to the waiting area so we could see if he had taken enough to get clean margins.

While I waited, my surgeon, who is uniquely qualified to double as a pathologist, looked at slides of the tissue he had taken to determine whether he was able to get clean margins. As I waited, before and after my surgery, I watched as a nurse came to the waiting area to tell several other patients their results.  My surgeon had managed to get clean margins for each of them.

As I read an issue of Coastal Living, I couldn’t help but notice that I was the youngest patient in the packed waiting room.  By far.  I think I could safely say that most of the people there were double my age.  This fact wasn’t lost on Dr. B, either.  He told me that it is not uncommon for people to develop skin cancer.  It’s just fairly unusual to develop it at my age.

Now it was my turn to get my results.  I was told that he had also gotten clean margins for me.

The nurses brought me back to the surgical room.  They asked Jennifer not to follow. They whipped out the needles to numb me again.  When this was done, Dr. B came back in, reiterated that he had managed to get clean margins around the cancer.  Then they draped me with blue sterile cloths again.  And Dr. B undid my pressure bandage and began cauterizing me again.  Then he started to stitch me up.

When he was through, he apologized for everything I was going through and wished me well.  He told me that I had a much higher risk of developing future skin cancers and asked me to schedule a full skin check in 6 months.  He said that I would always need to do this now and that I would need to be more vigilant about checking myself and being protected in the sun.  I neglected to tell him that being more vigilant would require staying indoors entirely, even in our grey city.

After he walked out, one of the nurses asked if I’d like to see it.  Of course I did!

She handed me the mirror and “That’s big!” was the first thing I said.  Dr. B could have made a nice Harry Potter scar and it would have been the same length!  The nurses reassured me that it wouldn’t be that noticeable one day and they wrapped me up with a pressure bandage and went over the care instructions.

It wasn’t long before I was finished and had an appointment scheduled to remove my stitches in a week (tomorrow).  I was there about 5 hours, but it didn’t feel like it.  It really wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  And I am glad that I did it.

Or at least I was until the swelling began.  It began to appear on Day 3.  By that evening I was so swollen that even H thought I should call the surgeon’s office after hours.  When I did, they gave me a few instructions and scheduled me to come back to the hospital in the morning.

At the hospital I was told that the swelling was a result of an excessive amount of bleeding.  My surgeon said this was pretty unusual.  He seemed to feel that my “young” age and skin were partially to blame.  He said that it would get worse before it would get better and that it would soon look bruised (and give me a set of black eyes).  Lovely!

Mistaken for the Bride of Frankenstein

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Photo Credit: frankensteinhalloweencostume.com

You may recall a post I wrote last month about skin cancer and learning that I have been growing said cancer on my forehead: Skin Cancer, Too?  Really?!

Well, despite my attempts to delay the surgery I need to (hopefully) eliminate this cancer, the day of this unpleasant event is now upon me.

In a few short hours I will be headed to the hospital for chemosurgery / Mohs micrographic surgery with our area’s only chemosurgeon.

And I am biting my nails.  They’ve told me that I should plan to be there for anywhere from half the day to the entire day.  They won’t know how long until the surgery is underway and they can see how extensive the cancer is — and what will be required to close the area up.

Apparently I am supposed to be comforted by the fact that my surgeon is excellent at doing reconstruction and skin grafts.  Let me assure you that I am not.  I would rather have not known that he may need to exercise these talents with me.

I don’t know why I am so concerned about this surgery.  I’ve had more than my fair share of surgeries and procedures.  And most of them were far more invasive than what I expect this one to be.  I’ve been cut into so many times that if I lifted my shirt, you might mistake me for the bride of Frankenstein.

So this shouldn’t be a big deal in comparison, right?  (Well, that’s what I’m telling myself at least.)

And it’s for a good cause.  I am actively growing cancer on my head — I can see it growing from week to week — so I should want to get rid of it.

But I am still scared.

Maybe it’s because I’m a bleeder?  And I’m on a blood-thinning regimen.  Just the biopsies required to get this diagnosis were a clear sign that bleeding will be an issue for me.

Maybe it’s because they’ll have a scalpel touching my head and I don’t yet know how deep they’ll have to cut?

Maybe it’s because I’ll be awake and I’d much rather be asleep?

Or maybe it’s just because I am so tired of cancer and side effects and surgeries and procedures and my body is weathered and worn out.  And I just want to feel like a regular thirty-something-year-old with regular thirty-something-year-old problems.

Or maybe it’s just because no one likes surgery — big or small — and I am only human.  (Of course if I lift my shirt, you may think otherwise!)

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Photo Credit: mubi.com

Man of Science, Man of Faith

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If you were a Lost fan and saw every episode (as I did), you might recall an episode titled “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” (S2, E1).

It was the first episode of season 2 and the episode where Jack, a surgeon, meets his future wife.  She is brought into the E.R. after a devastating car accident that leaves her paralyzed.  Jack plans to operate but tells her that the possibility of regaining function is almost nonexistent.  Jack’s father, a senior surgeon, witnesses this exchange and chastises his son for squelching his patient’s hope.  Jack barks that her spine is crushed and that any hope he’d be giving her would be false hope.  He performs the surgery to the best of his ability, but she is so damaged that he believes she is still paralyzed and that he was unable to fix her.  When he goes back to apologize and tell her she will never have feeling below her waist, she begins wiggling her toes.  Jack, who was previously only a man of science, realizes that science and faith merged to create a miracle.

My friend Nancy has known about my cancer since the beginning.  She watched me barely make it through harsh chemos.  She visited when I was giving myself daily injections of Neupogen as my white blood cell counts plummeted.  She came to say goodbye on the eves of major surgeries.  She brought dinners over to feed my children when I had I.V. bags full of fluid running into the Powerport in my chest and was vomiting so much that I could barely hold my head up.

She watched me spiral downward into a deep well of cancer.  And then she watched me slowly claw my way up to the surface again.

And somewhere in the midst of this, she came to my door with both fear and hope in her eyes.  She told me that her husband, Frank, had something show up on his CAT scan.

I knew that Frank’s hadn’t been feeling well.  I knew that he didn’t look well.  And when I last saw him, the yellow tint in his eyes did not go unnoticed.

She said that he was scheduled for surgery, but that God was good and that he would be fine.

As you may have guessed, Nancy is very religious and is outwardly so.  She has no qualms about sharing her beliefs.

Nor does she have any trouble with telling others to have hope and faith.  She has done this with me many times since my diagnosis.  She has even gone so far as to tell me in a roundabout way that when I am not doing well, it is because I am not trusting in God and not being faithful enough.

It is always a difficult thing for me to hear, especially during the times when I have felt my worst.  I’d be lying if I said the idea that I am responsible for the cancer for any reason is a tough pill to swallow.

But I listen and nod my head because I know Nancy is not saying these things to hurt my feelings.  I know she says them because her faith is so strong that she can’t see these situations from any other angle.

Frank’s surgery revealed a small tumor.  It was malignant.  They also found a small amount of cancer in one lymph node.  The good news was that the surgeon managed to get clean margins.

I was noticeably concerned, but Nancy reminded me that God is good and that the cancer was small and her husband would be fine.

Frank is a doctor and a man of the cloth.  Frank is both a man of science and a man of faith.  Usually.

When Frank started chemo, Nancy did her best to make healthy foods that Frank could tolerate.  She took care of him and they prayed together regularly.  They both had faith that everything would be fine.

Frank had a really difficult time with chemo and eventually decided that he’d had enough because it was making him so sick.  They repeated his scans and everything looked good.  So they both said “God is good” and made the decision to stop the chemo.  Frank was so sick from the chemo that he and Nancy thought it wasn’t worth continuing, especially when his scans were good and he had God protecting him.

I was reeling over this decision.  I insisted that Frank should continue to pray, but that he should also consider finishing the chemo.  I repeated that he would be horribly sick during chemo, but that he would feel better when it ended.  I said that it would be worth it in the end because it would give him the best shot at life.  I pleaded with them then — and many times since.

But they insisted that they were going to let God take care of it.  He didn’t need the harsh chemo.  He just needed to be faithful.

So time passed.  His scans were still good.  I insisted that he go back and finish, though.  But my friends told me that it wasn’t worth the side effects and that God was healing him.

And then he didn’t feel well.  He was having trouble eating.  He didn’t look good.  He was losing weight.

A few weeks later, Nancy said Frank had collapsed and they were going to the hospital for dehydration.  It was the second time in a month.

I suggested that she look into home I.V. hydration so he could avoid these hospital stays.  And I also pleaded with her to reconsider the chemo decision.  She said that it wasn’t open for discussion.  Frank did not want to get sicker with chemo and she wasn’t going to push it.  She still insisted that he would be fine.

He had to go back into the hospital last week.  Again for dehydration.  But this time the scan revealed something.  But she didn’t tell me about it.

She called tonight during dinner.  She asked about the times when I had home hydration because the hospital was giving her a hard time.  They told her that he would need to enroll in hospice and sign a DNR before they would start home I.V. hydration and was this what I had to do?

I told her that it wasn’t at all.  I signed a few forms at the Cancer Center and then a few more when the delivery truck and my nurse showed up at the door.  But it wasn’t hospice related.  And there was no DNR to sign.

The conversation haunted me.  Then I learned that Frank was no longer going upstairs.  Nancy was giving him sponge baths in the living room.  And a hospital bed had just been delivered.

I was sick to my stomach because I had been through this with loved ones before and I knew what it meant.

Nancy said that the latest scan revealed that the cancer had metastasized to his stomach.  That he has 3 months to live.  3 months.

They are scared.  And rightfully so.

And my heart aches for them because I love them both and I don’t want this disease to take Nancy’s husband.

I do believe in God and I do believe in the power of prayer.  But I also believe that modern medicine exists for a reason.

I  wish they could have found a way to balance medicine and faith.  I wish he had finished the chemo.  And I’m sure they do, too.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

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PowerPort (port) through which chemo and other medicines and fluids can be administered. Also great for lab draws and scans for which I.V. contrast is necessary. I was reluctant to have the port placement ‘surgery’ back on May 7, 2010. But I am so glad I wasn’t given a choice & was ‘forced’ to do it — it has been a lifesaver!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/photo-challenge-delicate/