"Let's kick cancer's booty and take some names."
LORD, after this suffering, let it be said that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, make my Savior clear to all those around me. Because of my suffering and willing perseverance, cause others to be encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
(Phillippians 1:12-14)

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God is walking with me. This I know.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oncology Appointments

Whew! I'm tired!

It's been a VERY long 2 days, seeing 2 different doctors. Here we go......

Dr. Hunt, Radiation Oncology
Radiation is typically done after a lumpectomy and Dr. Hunt explained that radiation goes one step further than chemo in fighting any remaining cancer cells. He said I would have radiation treatments for 7 1/2 weeks, Monday-Friday, and that each treatment would last about 15 minutes.

I will schedule an appointment for a mold to be made of my arm raised above my head. That is how I will lie in the radiation machine. I will then have a dummy scan so they can point the radiation in the area of the tumor. The first 5 weeks of radiation will be a little more broad. The last 2 1/2 weeks will be directed in the exact spot of the tumor.

He said it's very easy and there is no pain whatsoever. The only side effects will be a skin rash and tiredness. He said the tiredness would be similar to being out in the sun all day; I could get up and do things and go places, but I'd rather just stay home and rest. He said both side effects would gradually get worse as I went along and they would gradually disappear once I finished radiation. He also said they can give me creams to put on the rash to help and that it was more uncomfortable than painful.

I will begin radiation treatments after chemo........

Dr. Yardley, Medical Oncology
This appointment is the one that really wore me out. Thank you to Jennifer Mumphrey and Greta Ward for sticking it out with me.

I arrived at Tennessee Oncology (at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center) 30 minutes before my appointment, as directed. I submitted all my paperwork and paid my co-pay. About 30 minutes later I was called back. My posse (Scott, Greta and Jennifer) were asked to sit in the hallway in chairs they had lined up while I was swept away to the lab. That place was BUSY! They had 4 stations in a room roughly 9 x 9, each with a chair, a nurse, a computer and a shelf full of tubes, needles, blood pressure machines and thermometers. I was weighed and my height was measured (5' 1" in case you're wondering.....and no, I'm not telling you my weight).
My temperature and blood pressure were taken and then she got out the needle. Rats! She drew about 5 tubes of blood. I commented, "Wow. This place is busy." The nurse replied, "Yes, it is. And sometimes it's busier than this."

I was then asked to sit with everyone else in the hall. They didn't have a room available for me. After a few more minutes of waiting, we were all ushered back to a room. A very small room. And it was stuffy in there. And we could hear the conversation next door. We cracked the door a little bit to get some air and Dr. Yardley finally appeared about an hour later. I was getting antsy at this point.

She started using really big words and it was tad hard to understand her (she mumbled a little) but once she got going, I was able to understand what she was saying and started to relax a little.

Dr. Yardley stated that I had a few things in my favor and a few things working against me. The positive things were that the cancer was caught very early and the lymph nodes were negative. She said the tumor was small in comparison to others. Her exact words were, "It's amazing that you actually found this because it was so small." God and I did a mental hi five (because He's cool like that) and I said to myself, "GOD is the amazing one." She went on to explain the negative pieces: I have a 30% chance of never getting this again if I don't do any chemo and those odds weren't good with her. Also, the type of cancer in my case is very aggressive and very fast growing. She said the tumor hadn't been there long.

Along with the aggressiveness of the cancer, she also said the cancer is estrogen positive but HER-2 negative. Basically a HER-2 negative diagnosis means that the the HER-2 gene is not over-producing protein, causing cancer cells to grow. The estrogen positive factor means that I will have hormone therapy for 5 years after chemo is over.

She is recommending 6 chemo treatments to be administered once every 3 weeks. If I start in the next couple of weeks, I'll be done somewhere around Thanksgiving. I can add that to my list of things to be thankful for.

She went on the explain a drug trial that is available to me. It's a drug called Bevacizumab that blocks a protein that is required to form new blood vessels. Without new blood vessels, the growth of the tumor is slowed. If I choose to participate in the trial, there is only a 33% chance that I will receive the trial drug. Do you know how they decide? It's basically a crap shoot. Seriously. It's completely random. The paperwork even says so: "Research participants will be randomized (similar to flipping a coin or the roll of dice)". There are 3 groups and only Group 3 gets the trial drug. The other 2 receive a regular chemo regimen. In group 3 the trial drug is administered along with a regular chemo regimen. I have to decide if I want to participate in the next few days.

Dr. Yardley also stated that there would be lots of support drugs. She said the chemo would be the easy part. But they give you lots of prescriptions to keep with you for immune support, nausea (about 3 different ones for that) plus drugs to keep infections at bay, etc. I will have to be on several drugs prior to starting chemo and continue a lot of them throughout the 18 weeks. Some will only be taken as needed. She said they want to provide me with everything they can, so that I won't have to suffer through any additional medical problems. They stay on top of it because the chemo can really weaken the immune system. She said not to go to the emergency room for anything, but to let them know ANY other symptoms I'm showing, even if it's just sore throat.

Several tests need to be run before I can begin chemo. Next week is going to be busy. Monday morning I have to be at Imaging Alliance on White Bridge Road at 6:50 to drink the contrast fluid (a powder mixed with Crystal Light). Then the test will begin at 7:50. It should take about an hour. Then Wednesday morning I'm scheduled for an echocardiogram at 8am, then it's off to Dr. Cooper for a surgical consult about placing the port. If he says my incision is healed up enough (it's still open in one tiny spot and still draining) and he has a spot open on the surgery schedule on Friday, I will then have the port placed.

The port: It's about the size of a nickel and it's placed under the skin. It had a long tube on the end of it that will be placed inside a vein. It will look like a knot on my skin. It's placed just under the collar bone on the opposite side of the tumor (mine will be on the left).

If Dr. Cooper can put the port in on Friday the 6th, I will begin chemo on Wednesday, August 11th. I will see Dr. Yardley before each chemo treatment and they will do lab work (draw blood, take my blood pressure, etc). Each treatment (including the labs and doctor visit) will take approximately 4 hours.

After chemo, I can return to my normal activities, as long as I'm feeling ok.

She said around day 10 after chemo I would start to feel tired and my immune system would start to fade. Around day 14 I would begin to lose my hair. I want to thank my new friend Shelly Hackney for giving me all her hats and headscarves. She just finished her chemo back in February and is doing really well. Momma, Angie and I are going shopping this weekend to see what else I can find. There is also a web site (http://www.headcovers.com) that has a boat load of hats, headscarves and other things for women (and men) going through chemo hair loss. Dr. Yardley stated the hair would begin growing back after the last treatment.

Speaking of hair loss, I would like to also mention my brother Ted and his wife, Greta. Greta has really short hair and is going to let it grow out as long as I'm going through treatments. Ted has shaved his whole head completely bald so I don't have to go it alone. And Scott says he's going to do the same thing when I start losing my hair. How sweet is this family?

I think I covered everything for now. I will post another update once I get through all my tests next week.

Everyone have a great weekend! I'm headed to Fall Creek Falls to pick up my niece from church camp tomorrow. I love church camp and plan on going for the whole week next year.

It's good to be alive! -

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Follow Up from 3rd Surgery

Praise God that He still takes us out of the mouths of lions. No cancer in the surrounding tissue! WOOHOO!!! All the tissue he took out last week contained no cancer cells.

Dr. Cooper is sending me to 2 oncologists the last week in July. One is Dr. Denise Yardley, who is a medical oncologist, and Dr. Hunt, who is a radiology oncologist.

If I understand correctly, Dr. Yardley will go over my chemo options and Dr. Hunt will go over my radiation options. I will have chemo first, then radiation, but will know with certainty once my appointments roll around.

So.........no more doctor's appointments until I get back from vacation. I have 6 days of work left, then we're off to PCB with my sister and her family. I'm soooo ready for that break. I don't plan on doing anything except plant my chair and my toes in the sand. No swimming for 3 weeks, but that's ok. As long as I can stick my feet in the water, I'm good.

Hugs to all! -




Friday, July 2, 2010

3rd Surgery


Hope this if finding you all well. The weather the last couple of days has been GREAT!

I had my 3rd surgery yesterday. I was about like the others. We got to the hospital at 8:30, I signed in and after a brief amount of lab work, I was called back to my room for the day. I didn't have to get any mammograms or ultrasounds or guide wires placed this time, so it went relatively quick.

The orderly came to get me and put me in pre-op. I got there around 9:30. After the 2nd attempt at placing my IV line (ouch!) they said Dr. Cooper was still in another surgery. This was around 10:20. One of the nurses came by and said if they didn't call me back in 15 minutes, she would let my family come back there; and she did. Scott and Momma came back to see me. It had signs all over the door that it was a sterile area. I assumed that meant everyone had to wear a hair net and scrub up before entering. I assumed incorrectly. I was also flat on my back so I could look at the ceiling tiles. There were 32 within my sight line. I counted them because I was bored. When you are looking at ceiling tiles that are dirty, you try not to think about how "not sterile" the room is. So I decided to close my eyes and take a nap. Around 11, they came to get me and gave me something to help me relax for the ride to the OR. I remember being rolled out of pre-op, into the operating room and someone telling me to breathe deeply. Then I saw that mask go over my face. I also saw some big lights above. I was counting to myself and trying to breathe deep. I got to 4.

Next thing I remember is waking up in recovery. They were speaking my name loudly and telling me where I was and that it was over. I couldn't help but notice how much pain I was in. My lower back was killing me so I tried to move my legs and release some of the pressure off my back. It helped some. But then I noticed my incision felt like it was burning and stinging and just generally painful. The nurse asked if I was in pain and I told her yes. She said, "OK. I will bring you some morphine." THANK YOU!!! is what I wanted to shout. Instead I starting breathing, trying to calm myself. I dozed a little, then was asked again if I was still in pain. At that point, it was dulled a little. I told her that and she gave me more morphine. A few minutes later I was feeling pretty good. She kept telling me to breath deeply because it would help to saturate my body with oxygen (they had taken the oxygen tubing out). She also said they wouldn't give me more pain meds in the room if I didn't. I breathed as deeply as I could, but between each deep breath, I wanted to go back to sleep. She had to keep reminding me to breathe deep.

A little while later they wheeled me back to my room. Momma, Daddy, Angie and Scott were waiting for me. Angie and I were trying not to laugh when she said she'd bring me some Sprite. We had just had a conversation about how Sprite tastes so good in the hospital, along with graham crackers. So when she asked me if I wanted some Sprite, Angie mouthed to me, "And graham crackers!" Sometimes we can just look at each other and start laughing. It happens with my momma and Tammy Lee too. Could've been the drugs making me laugh too. :)

Gary and Dot came in (Scott's parents) and visited with us awhile. After everyone left, I started dozing off again. The nurse came in and I got ready to leave. I think we ended up getting home around 4.

Everyone who was there tried to let everyone who wasn't there know how I was doing. Scott and I have AT&T and there is no service in the hospital. So he didn't get to text anyone until we got home.

I asked what Dr. Cooper said after surgery. They told me he said I did fine and everything looked good. The tissue he took out was sent to pathology and he will let me know the results on my follow-up visit, which is this coming Tuesday, the 6th at 3:40.

I'm feeling pretty good right now. Still a little groggy, but other than that, I'm good. Oh....and the nurse never did give me anymore pain meds. When the recovery nurse was talking to the room nurse, she said they had given me demerol and morphine in recovery. I guess they figured I'd had enough. ha! It was fine though. I wasn't feeling any pain. I took one pain pill around 10pm, then went to bed.

It's now 4:28am and I can't sleep that good right now. But I'm relaxed and am feeling fine. I'm trying not to take too many painkillers. I usually take 1 before bedtime but during the day I try to just use Advil or Aleve. It seems to work fine.

Oh, and I DID get some antibiotics before surgery. Dr. C said that antibiotics afterward shouldn't be needed because the incision is completely closed. The weight of the breast is what caused it to open up and get infected last time. I'm still watching it closely for any signs of infection, but I think it will be ok this time. I bought 2 really good supportive sports bras that he wants me to wear for the next 6 weeks. That, along with the stitches and steri-strips should hold everything together this time.

Everyone have a great and safe 4th of July weekend. I love this holiday. You don't have to buy presents, decorate, cook all that much, or send out cards. It's very relaxing to me.

Hugs to all! -