Success!

When the port placement was explained to me a few weeks ago, the nurse expressed the importance of only allowing the surgeon and the oncologist access to the port. It’s easy access to draw blood but if done too frequently or with the wrong needle it can damage the port.

“No one else can have access to your port. Don’t even tell them that you have one. It’s off limits.”

At the time, I thought it was odd that having easy port access was such an attractive trait. I must admit, after the number of blood draws in recent weeks, I can understand the appeal! But it’s off limits to unauthorized personnel. 😉

Today went well. It was a long day but my husband kept me laughing throughout the experience. It’s amazing how much prep work goes into a day like this. Special soap that took 3 stores to find (apparently it’s located in the first aid aisle, not the soap aisle) and no food / water after midnight (Gremlins, anyone?). I’ve never felt so clean in my life, between the specialty soap for 2 days and the antibacterial wipes that I needed to use prior to putting on my gown. Does changing into a hospital gown behind a curtain make anyone else dress as quickly as humanly possible?

When the nurses first came in to chat with me about the procedure and what to expect, I questioned whether or not I would be knocked out.

“Of course you will be!” They responded, eyes wide. When I shared that I witnessed a video of a man awake during the procedure, they had a good laugh. I expressed how relieved I was to hear that news!

Everyone that I interacted with today was wonderful. They answered all my questions, were friendly and they all seemed to really enjoy their jobs and helping people. We even had quite a few laughs throughout the day.

The surgery itself went well, the follow up x-ray was good and I enjoyed a nap while waiting in the recovery room. I even woke up to the nurse telling me, “You are so pretty. I can’t get over how beautiful you are!” She was too kind!

The incision is smaller than I had envisioned, which was a nice surprise. It is sore and a bit uncomfortable but I’m hoping that won’t last for too long. Here’s hoping that tomorrow isn’t too bad either.

Thank you for all of the messages that I received today. I appreciate each and every one of you!

One adventure down for the week – and one more to go. I’d say so far it’s been a success!

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Today is a good day!

I am awaiting port placement surgery but wanted to share the exciting news that my PET scan is negative for any additional cancer.

Oh, and the video told lies.  they are totally knocking me out for this.  Yay!

Today is a good day, my friends!

Going green

My aunt messaged me this week, asking me what my favorite color is. This question was harder than it should be, but I decided green was definitely my favorite. I always feel pretty in green.

Auntie posted on Facebook that everyone should wear green on Saturdays to support my battle with breast cancer. This made me smile. What an awesome way to bring together everyone I care about, despite the distance in between us.

Dressed in green, my husband, son and I made our rounds doing some errands on Saturday morning. My husband pointed out all the people that we saw wearing green.

“See, they all support you too.”

When I checked Facebook later in the day, the amount of posts about wearing green was remarkable. Family and friends from all over – Florida, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Missouri! It is such an incredible feeling to know that so many people are rooting for me, praying for me and supporting me through this battle.

As the week of treatment approaches, seeing the amazing love and support around me and my family gives me a sense of comfort, strength and hope.

That, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.

Knowledge is…power?

When I was eighteen, I went to school for nursing. I received a full scholarship and a monthly stipend to cover my expenses while I attended college. My classes were already picked out for each semester, as well as the books that were needed and the amount of time each class would take. It all seemed to fall into place nicely!

At orientation the week before school started, I met with all of my teachers, the faculty and my fellow students for a few hours and learned all about the next few years of my life. During the last portion of orientation, all of the students were taken into a room and asked to watch a nurse draw blood. I thought it was odd that they would show us that during orientation, but I took my place in the front and watched excitedly.

The nurse gave us her standard speech, walking us through the process on how we would draw blood and proceeded to do just that – draw blood. I went pale. I could feel my heart beating in my ears and I worried I was going to pass out. She asked if there were any questions before she demonstrated the process a second time.

I turned and walked out. I was going to be sick. There was no way I would be able to draw blood from anyone, at any point, ever, in my life.

I walked out of nursing school and never looked back. To this day, I turn my head every time I need to have blood drawn.

Today received a phone call to register me for my port placement on Tuesday. After asking the same questions that I have answered at least a dozen times so far, the nice woman on the other line asked me what questions I had for her.

Me: “They’re gonna knock me out for this, right?”

Nice nurse woman: “Excuse me?”

Me: “I won’t be awake for the procedure, right? They’ll put me to sleep and I’ll wake up and it’ll be done?”

Nice nurse woman: “Well, you’ll meet with an anesthesiologist in the morning, along with the doctor.”

Me: “Right. To put me out, right?”

Nice nurse woman: “They’ll drug you enough that you won’t know what’s happening.”

Satisfied with that answer, I hung up. I started to put my phone away and then decided I wanted to reassure myself further by searching the internet.

Big. Mistake.

There were lots of webpages about the ports that I could read but what caught my eye was a YouTube video.

Against my better judgement, I clicked.

I shouldn’t have clicked. I should have stuck to the articles.

It’s not that I didn’t expect to see the blood or the incision or the process; that’s why I clicked on it. What I didn’t expect to see was the guy awake! Talking to the doctor! Who does that?! Of course I couldn’t turn away and I continued to watch the entire 5+ minutes of the video so I could witness the entire process from start to finish. The entire time the doctor worked on the port placement, he talked to the guy, asked him if it hurt or if he felt anything, told him what he was doing, all as if they were chatting over a cup of coffee. The guy seemed totally ok with this interaction.

I have absolutely no interest in that. As a matter of fact, I don’t really want to know it’s happening at all. I much prefer to take a little nap, wake up and be all done. Maybe even sleep in the car ride home, too.

Therefore, I’ve decided I’m demanding to be put under during the process. I’ll let you know how well that works out for me.

You never know

Today the official countdown begins. My port will be put in place on Tuesday and chemotherapy treatment will begin next Thursday. One week. Someone told me today that I seemed calm, considering what the next week will bring.

I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish before I begin treatment – a shopping list of things that will make managing the side effects easier, prescriptions to pick up, blood work, etc. While treatment will not be disabling, it will be uncomfortable and I want to accomplish what I can ahead of time to make life easier once it starts.

The prep work that goes into treatment takes up a lot of time. I’ve lost count of the doctor appointments already, plus the scans that are needed and the phone calls and the paperwork. Experiencing so much in such a short amount of time has given me exposure to a lot of people. My doctors and nurses are amazing – truly incredible. They have embraced me, reassured me and answered questions that I didn’t know I had. The overwhelming majority of interactions that I have had in recent weeks have been pleasant, if not wonderful. These interactions have made the experience just a little easier, whether it was through a laugh over the phone, a pleasant smile or the reassurance that I am making the right decision. They have been through this with other patients before me and understand the toll it can take.

There were a few occasions that went against this norm. People that seemed unhappy in general and spoke to me as a number or the “next in line” rather than a person – a person facing a life altering battle. It generally catches me off guard, when I encounter someone like this. I am ashamed to admit that on one occasion I responded to such a person with, “I have cancer. I just need your help to make this happen.” She helped, without further hesitation.

I learned today that two people I interact with daily are facing their own battles, similar to mine, and have been for many years. They are both strong, happy people who always greet me with a smile. Yet I had no idea that they were experiencing something so similar to me. You never know the challenge that someone is facing.

Maybe I am calm. Maybe I am taking this better than expected. I won’t put my life on hold for this. I won’t let it consume me. I won’t let it cause me to be unhappy. I won’t let it give me an excuse to be mean to other people.

I will continue to greet each person that I meet with a smile. I will continue to be kind. I will continue to treat others as I hope they will treat me. Because you don’t know the battle that person is facing. You don’t know the lives you may be impacting. You don’t know the way your smile may brighten someone’s day.

Young & Strong

After sharing my diagnosis with friends within my office, they offered to treat me to lunch with a promise of fun and laughter. While at that lunch today, and amongst the giggles, they surprised me with a gift – the Alex & Ani bracelet “Young & Strong”. It represents “Faith, Hope, Determination” and is completely perfect. They knew exactly what I needed – food, friends, laughter and a reminder that I am loved.

I often hear people tell me how strong I am and that my strength will get me through this journey. I can’t help but smile when I hear this because I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel any stronger than I did a month ago or even a year ago. I don’t feel strong in the moments that reality sinks in and the battle ahead looms. I don’t feel strong after I finish a day of testing and cry because I ordered an iced coffee and was given a hot coffee. Fear, anxiety and the unexpected await me each day.

This is an unexpected detour in life. Amidst all of this uncertainty, I remind myself there is only one path forward. There is no alternative, no negotiating, and no second or third option. There is only the future – treatment. Treatment that will allow me to be the Maid of Honor in my baby sister’s wedding and a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding next year (even if I show up in an afro!). Treatment that will allow me to watch my son grow up. Treatment that will allow me to grow old with my husband. Treatment that will enable me to have a lifetime ahead of me filled with happy surprises, belly laughs and the most amazing memories.

Faith, hope and determination is what I have right now. Why? Because of my family. Because of my friends. Because you believe in me and you believe that I can beat this.

That’s what keeps me going. You give me strength.

Strength!

Radioactive, baby

I had a PET scan today, which was an interesting new experience. I was injected with a radioactive substance to identify areas in my body where the cancer may have spread (we’re praying for NONE!). Setting aside the obvious anxiety over the looming test results, I can’t be within 5 feet of my sweet little man tonight because I am considered “radioactive”. It breaks my heart that I am missing out on our bedtime routine of stories and rocking but makes me appreciate that much more the time I will have to snuggle him tomorrow. This test will allow my doctors to accurately assess my staging and while the treatment regimen would be the same, it will provide a better understanding of what I am fighting against. This one night away from him will allow me to have every night going forward with him.

While awaiting the test, I envisioned my skin beginning to glow and bursts of light jumping onto anything that I came into contact with afterwards. Throughout the day, I became very conscious of the things I touched and the people I was around. Not that I am contagious but because I kept envisioning this glow of light around me that emitted radioactivity. How far does this glow reach? Does it pass from one person to the next? When does this glow fade? Can people see it? Does this make me a superhero?

When my husband and I decided to share my diagnosis with the world, we did it because it felt right. We wanted the people we care about to know what was going on in our lives and the battle we were facing. We wanted to be honest, upfront and real about what we were experiencing as a couple, as a family and as individuals. We wanted to bring awareness to the reality that is breast cancer.

What I don’t think I could have ever anticipated is the complete outpouring of support, encouragement and love from all around us. We have been blessed in more ways than I can begin to count. While there is an uphill battle ahead, I find strength in the blessings and love that surrounds us each and every day. The words of encouragement, the prayers and the support mean more than I can put into words.

Unlike the radioactivity that will leave my body, the love that I feel will not.

To all of you who have wished us well, reached out to help, offered a warm hug or stumbled across this blog and decided to return – thank you. I will continue to envision this glow around me that will provide strength and healing in the months ahead. Because that, my friends, is the superpower that I need. And you have all so willingly and selflessly offered it.

Thank you.