Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Update to earlier post

I will have surgery Monday morning to have an infusion port placed for chemotheray.  They will reschedule the PET scan.

Cancer Treatment Plan

Met with the oncologist today and LOVED him and his staff.  I DO NOT have to have radiation therapy.  This was the best news I could have heard.  He said radiation is usually done when 4 or more lymph nodes are involved, so I just skirted that.  I was dreading the thought of radiation every day.  YEAH........

Okay, so here's the plan.  Monday morning at 7:15 a.m. I go for a PET scan to make sure the cancer hasn't spread to any other organs.  The oncologist is contacting my surgeon to request he place my port on Tuesday, this will be an outpatient surgery.  I'm scheduled to start chemotherapy Wednesday afternoon at 11:45.  This first treatment will take 4-5 hours but should only take about 3 hours per treatment after that.

Phase 1 of treatment I will receive two chemotherapy medications, Adriamycin and Cytoxan, every 2 weeks for 4 cycles.  Phase 2 of treatment I will receive one chemotherapy medicine, Taxol, every 2 weeks for 4 cycles.  The day after each treatment I go in for a Neulasta shot which will stimulate my body to make more white blood cells to fight off infection. 

They assured me that I shouldn't have any vomiting, they have really good medication to prevent that.  I will have extreme fatigue and bone pain starting a day or two after my treatment and lasting 3-5 days.  I will lose all my hair (within about 2 weeks) and may have trouble with mouth sores and/or poor appetite.  Ha, but other than that, it should be a walk in the park :)

It was surreal sitting in the waiting room surrounded by all the bald-headed people in their stocking caps.  It kind of made everything a little more real.  Some looked great, smiling and talkative, and some looked horrible, on death's door..... really scary.

The doctor said that my cancer is really aggressive/fast growing and probably grew within 4-5 months.  After hearing that, I'm ready to get chemo underway and start killing any cells that are still floating around. 

Okay everyone, here we go.  It's time.  Are we ready?  YES we are.  Thanks to each of you who will be walking this road with me.  I'm going to run this race and I need each of you cheering for me on the side lines.  With God's help, we are going to WIN THIS RACE...............

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting Stronger......

I'm getting around MUCH better without those silly drains hanging around.  My mother went home yesterday, she was my right-hand-man.  Thanks mom for all your help and support.  I don't know how anyone could make it through something like this without friends and family. 

I'm working on building my stamina and getting stronger.  I have less that 2 weeks before I return to work.  I get around very well but get fatigued easily.  I'm also working very hard on exercising my arms to get my range of motion back.  I will update everyone after my oncologist appointment next week. 

Wishing everyone a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.  God Bless You and Yours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pathology Results.....

Well, I only got one of my three drains removed.  I get the other two out tomorrow if the amount of drainage has decreased.  My pathology report was better than my doctor and I had expected, Praise God.  Okay here are the results, more than you would ever care to know I'm sure. 

I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (which is what about 80% if all breast cancers are). 
The tumor size was 3.4 cm and the largest lymph node was 4 cm. 
I have stage IIb breast cancer (assuming that my scans do not indicate that the cancer has spread to other organs)  Staging is based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes are involved, and whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast.  Breast cancer is staged from 0-IV, with IV being the worst.
My cancer is Grade 3.  The grade tells how aggressive (fast growing) the cancer is.  Cancer grades are from  1-3,   3 being very aggressive and fast growing.
I had 3 out 13 lymph nodes that were positive for cancer.  My doctor and I were very happy with this news, we thought it would be much worse.  If 4 nodes had been positive than I would have been considered stage III.  I need all the help I can get, lol.  I live for the good news.
My cancer is estrogen receptor negative and progesterone receptor negative.  Breast cancers whose hormone receptors are positive tend to respond better, especially to hormonal therapy but there are still treatments available.  Would have been better if mine were positive.
My HER-2 status is negative.  This is good news.

Well, now that you've had your anatomy and physiology lesson for the day you are up to speed.  I go the oncologist for the fist time on Wednesday, December 29th.  He will schedule my other scans (to make sure the cancer hasn't spread to other organs) and go over my treatment plan with me.  I will have chemotherapy, without question, but I'm not sure if I will still have to have radiation.

On a lighter note... Mom and I went to the American Cancer Society this afternoon.  They were the nicest, sweetest, most helpful girls.  They gave me 2 wigs, 2 prosthetic bras, a hat, an arm pillow and tons of information.  I was really impressed.  Mom took a couple of crazy pictures of me, we laughed and had a fun time.

Drains are coming out.......

Mom and I went to get my hair cut yesterday, check out my new short-n-sassy look.  On my way to the doctor's to get these stinkin drains out...... HAPPY DAY.  I will update all information after my doctor's visit, wish me luck..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Crazy Sisters.....

My crazy sisters came to spend the day with me and make sure I'm still alive and kicking.  We had such a fun day, laughed so much I'm a little sore now.  I actually went on an outing to Walgreens and the Dollar Store.  Stuffed my drains in my pants and away we went.  I was hoping I wouldn't be questioned about the bulge under my shirt..... ha, they sure would have gotten the shock of their life. 

I think I've gained 10 lbs from all the food and goodies my friends have brought the past week.  They are just unbelievable.  My colleagues and nurse friends brought me a beautiful card that included a stack of gift cards to every restaurant in town, I am not even kidding.......  To all my friends: you have brought light to a very dark time in my life and I can't tell you how much that means to me.  I love you so much, you make me smile.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bride of Frankenstein.......

Well this is probably the most dreaded moment for all women that have mastectomies.  The moment the bandages come off and you are faced with the reality of what's left (or should I said, what's not left, lol) 

I didn't crumble to the floor in hysterics, but I have to admit it kind of takes your breath away.  The purple ink markings and the drains hanging out of my chest, like tentacles of an octopus, don't help the look either.  I will be shopping on-line for some falsies that's for sure.  No really, after the initial shock, it isn't that bad. 

I'm having a great day.  Took a shower which made me feel so much better.  I am having little, to no pain, and getting around great.  Whoo Hooo!!!!  Love to all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ran Over by a Mack Truck

Well, I guess I got a little cocky about doing so well........ this morning is a whole different story. I feel like I've been hit by a train.  Wow, what a difference from yesterday. 

I can take the bandages off today and take a shower.  Boy, I'm not sure if I'm ready for that yet or not, we'll see.  I'm so blessed to have Bryan and my momma here to take care of me.  I also have the best friends a girl could ask for.  They are spoiling me with dinners, goodies and lots of love.  I appreciate it SO MUCH. 

Say a prayer for Elizabeth Edwards' family and may she rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First morning after surgery

Well, the first hurdle is over.  It was not near as bad as I had feared, praise God.  When I woke up in the recovery room I was having quite a lot of pain, but after some "joy juice" got the pain under control rather fast and have not really had much since.

Bryan stayed with me last night and can't hardly walk this morning from the 4 star accommodations, lol.  I'm glad he did.... he helped walk me, and all my drains, get to the restroom during the night.  I'm now sitting here drinking a cup of coffee and waiting for breakfast.  I feel like a queen :)

Thank you to Zoe and Frank for being here during my surgery, and to Tammy and Sharon for bringing me the most gorgeous basket of goodies from all my friends.  The doctor said surgery went well, no surprises, and felt confidant that he got all the cancer.  I should go home later today and look forward to seeing my friends.

I am so glad the surgery is behind me and I'm looking to the future.  Love to each and every one of you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Morning before surgery......

Well, the day has arrived.  I just can't believe that a month ago my life was clicking along normal as can be and now this.  Really makes you look at life in a whole new light.  The old saying, "Live each day like it's your last", takes on a new meaning.

Boy, what I wouldn't give for a cup of coffee right now.  My surgery isn't until 3:00 pm and I can't have anything to eat or drink until then..... talk about torture.  I have to be at the hospital at 10:30 am. for a sentinel node mapping before surgery.  This is going to be a very long day.

I am so scared. Yes, you heard me right... Connie Duncan is officially scared!   I've never had any kind of major surgery before and I'm not big on pain.  I'm the one that has always done the poking and prodding, not the one getting poked and prodded.  I make a much better nurse than I do a patient.  Bryan and my momma and daddy will be with me today.  My sweet momma is here for the next 2-3 weeks to take care of me, you might want to say a little prayer for her, lol.  I'm the care giver in this family and it will be hard to relinquish my role, but I will try and be good.

Thank each and every one of you for the words of encouragement and prayers.  I will share the surgery experience with you in a couple of days.  I want to end with another poem that a friend sent me that I love.  Hugs and kisses to all.  Don't worry, God will be with me, holding my hand through it all.

What Cancer Cannot Do:
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the Spirit.
   written by Ann Landers

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wow, what a day......

What a whirl-wind of a day.  Met with the genetic counselor and drew blood to test for the BRAC gene, which is a gene mutation that causes breast and ovarian cancers.  If I test positive I will have to have my ovaries removed later. 

Then I had a MRI of my breast.  The MRI showed extensive lymph node involvement under my left arm and one lymph node adjacent to the breast mass.  What that means is I have to do chemo AND radiation therapies.  That sucks.  The GREAT news is the mass has not attached to my chest wall, praise God.

Next, off to meet with the surgeon.  I really, really liked him.  He had already contacted the oncologist and plastic surgeon to discuss my case.  My team of doctors are already all in place.  Due to the aggressive nature of this cancer and my family history, I am having a double mastectomy ..... and I'm having it Monday!  Wow, they don't mess around.  Because I will have to have radiation, I won't get any reconstruction until later down the road.  I will also have several other scans to assess my bones, lungs and liver for metastasis, but that won't happen until sometime after surgery.

There is one thing I've learned very quickly.  Cancer is not something that only affects the patient but affects their whole family, especially their husband or signifigant other.  They are really the unsung heros.  They have to be the rock while they are torn to shreads on the inside.  They are there holding our hand every step of the way, our cheerleaders and soft place to fall.  People like my brother-in-laws; Butch and Larry.  People like my wonderful husband Bryan, who I am so blessed to have.  The women that fight for their lives every day could not do it without their wonderful men standing strong next to them.  On behalf of all those women, we love you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Results Are In.....

Finally the waiting is over.  The biopsies of my breast mass and the lymph node are both positive, grade 3 which is aggressive.  Boy, those are words I never dreamed I'd hear. 

I meet with the genetic counselor in the morning, followed by a breast MRI.  We meet with the surgeon at 1:00 and should have a better idea of what's in store after that.

I received this poem from my sweet niece and it about sums it up:

Cancer I did not give you the right,
To invade my body and take a bite.
This is my body and with all my might,
I will prevail with one hell of a fight.

To the cancer inside, I will battle and kill.
For that is my body's God given will.
To my cancer, these words I do send,
Your life is short and near the end.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Biopsy Day

Well, the biopsy is done, and really wasn't unpleasant at all, considering a huge needle was jabbed in my boob.  There were several more enlarged lymph nodes seen on ultra sound today. They took 3 core biopsies from the breast mass and 3 from the lymph node.  I will know the results tomorrow afternoon and we will go from there. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What The Heck Is That?

On Monday, November 8, 2010, I'm taking a bubble bath, as I do every single night (it's my relaxation/meditation time)  As I'm bathing I feel something hard in my left breast.  The lump is probably about the size of a large almond, but feels like a football to me.  This is where your heart does a little skip and ends up in your toes.  As many of you know, I have a strong family history of breast cancer, so I take this very seriously.  I have never had a breast lump before and it's not tender, so I tell myself it's a cyst and I watch it for a couple of days, hoping it will decrease in size or simply disappear..... this is called "denial".  Wednesday comes and it's still there in all it's glory.  I've never prayed something away so hard in my life.  I decide I better mention it to Bryan and have it looked at by my doctor.  I make a doctor's appointment for the following Wednesday.  On my drive home from work Friday afternoon (11-12-10) I have an itch under my arm and when I reach to scratch it, I find a large lump (walnut sized) under my left arm.  After I almost wreck the car, I go straight home to inform Bryan, which is one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I don't want to panic him but I am now officially scared.

I move my appointment to first thing Monday morning and am referred to the Breast Center for a special mammogram and ultrasound.  My appointment at the Breast Center isn't until the day before Thanksgiving (11-24-10).  Good grief, could we move a little quicker, and in the mean-time my anxiety is growing.

Okay, here is where I cut-to-the-chase..... after my mammogram and ultrasound, the doctor prepares Bryan and I for the worst.  He thinks it's cancer (well that's just great) but won't know for certain until a biopsy is done, which is scheduled for 11-30-10.....  Oh boy, more waiting.  That's where it all stands today..... a couple more days and we will have some answers.