Thursday, December 30, 2010

Small Hole!

Back to see the surgeon this morning. The incision (one of three) which showed the most "ugliness" in being allergic to the "human glue" needs to be looked at again. Right now there is about a one inch hole that is maybe a half an inch wide. Twice a day I have been cleaning it -- and now I hope the surgeon has some ideas on how to make it better. The only bad thing is that I usually wait about an hour to see Dr D minimum (I have waited up to two hours). Not fun.

I hope she is close to being on time today as I am meeting a bunch of work colleagues for lunch at this cute place called "Josephines," a tea house on the Illinois side of the river. Click here for more information! I've been there tons of times with these same folks and we always have a good time. And right now I could use a good time.

We leave on Saturday for Dauphin Island, AL -- the vacation beach house we rented right on the water. This west cooast native is so looking forward to hanging out by the beach for an entire week!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

OK, the whole recovering from surgery thing is not easy. Today is probably the first day I feel close to normal though I still get pretty winded doing the simplest things (i.e. folding laundry). I saw Dr D, the surgeon, yesterday and she said that of the three incisions, one is healing perfectly, one so-so, and one was showing an allergic reaction to the human "glue" used in the incision. She cleaned all three of them and "dug out" the junk in the problem incision (which hurt like I can't describe!). So I am officially off the Percocet (yeah!) and now just taking the prescription-strength Ibuprofen.

But ... something bad happened on Christmas eve.

My very good friend Mary called me just after I had gone to bed to tell me that our friend Les had just died. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. You see, Les is more than just a friend. Like Mary, he helped me become the person I am today. When I entered St Martin's College, I was young (17 years old) and so unsure of who or what I wanted in my life. Eventually, after taking one of his poetry classes, Les became my advisor and it was partly because of him that I ended up spending almost four years living in Japan after graduating with a BA. After encouraging me as a student for four years, he didn't stop there. His letters to me after I moved to Japan were so important to me. And then when I discovered email after coming back to the states and entering grad school, he was the first person I emailed. I was stunned when moments later, he emailed me back!

Les got me through an MA program and I realized that I wanted to be him. I wanted to be a great teacher. He helped me make the hard decision to move to Mississippi (all the way across the country by myself!) to pursue a PhD and I can't tell you how many times I called him from my sad, little apartment. When I left that program to accept a tenure-track job at SWIC, he was right there supporting me. And, as you can see from the picture above, he was right there when Jim and I got married (the night before our wedding, he apparently threatened my husband with bodily harm if he ever hurt me).

For the six months I have had breast cancer, Les and I have talked more than ever since he has been going through his own struggle with cancer. But not once did I ever think he wouldn't make it. You see, if you knew Les you know that strong voice he has, that determination and kindness that simply come across in any conversation you have with him.

And now he is gone. The timing is rotten but I guess it always is. I just think it's so unfair that he had to die now. There is so much more that I would have told him if I knew that the last call was going to be it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Well, I may have overdone it a little yesterday. Though I wasn't feeling all that great when I first got up and started moving around yesterday (can anyone say "pain"?!?!), by the afternoon I was feeling a lot better. My good pal Peggy and I had hair appointments that we had made together a few weeks ago and so I decided to go even though earlier in the day I had told Peggy and the stylist that I wasn't going to be able to make it (mostly because I couldn't walk straight without holding my stomach in). Since Braxton, the amazing stylist, still had the space open, I went ahead and left the house for the first time since I came back from the hospital (Peggy picked me up since I can't drive right now).

I was actually OK for the first two hours (I have to think the Percocet I took was helping a lot) but then all of a sudden, wham! I felt like crap and I thought I was going to die (OK, maybe I am a little over dramatic sometimes!). Peggy's super cool daughter had also come along and unfortunately her hair was taking the longest so I just sat in a chair waiting for Braxton to finish her up. By the time, I made it home I was convinced that I had maybe screwed something up since my stomach hurt so much. I watched a little television with Jim but then pretty much passed out in bed (the percocet generally makes me sleepy).

This morning -- still a fair amount of pain but I promised Jim I would chill for the whole day though it's killing me that the house needs cleaning and we need to run to the grocery store (thankfully, next door) since the snow just started falling and the forecasters are saying something like 2-4 inches (this might cause us to stay home tomorrow instead of spending the day with Jim's family).

So what is the new lesson I have learned? I apparently have no freaking idea how to relax!

I did talk with my doc's assistant yesterday and she also seems to think I am just struggling with the gas in the tummy (I just had no idea that this could cause so much pain. I have a whole new respect for farting now!). Anyway, she suggested I add a new drug to my little regiment I have going, something called simethicone (main ingredient in Gas-X).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Pain" is My New Middle Name!

Again, just a quick update. I really had no idea that I was going to feel the way I am feeling now. The worse thing for me to do right now is to cough, laugh, or hiccup -- all make my tummy feel truly painful. But, so does moving around at all. As long as I am perfectly still, it's all good. However, staying still is not something I am good at. Sitting on the sofa makes me see that I need to clean up the kitchen, wash some dishes, vacuum -- well, you get the idea.

I'm not sure that the doc can do anything about the pain but I tried to make an appt online so I can just make sure everything is OK. They called, of course, when I finally was able to get in the shower and I returned the call immediately but I had to leave a message. I love my GYN (Dr D) but waiting is pretty usual.

I haven't had an appetite at all so I figure this experience might lead to losing a few of those chemo pounds I picked up. My stomach is a bit less swollen but it's still bigger than usual and it's that pressure that hurts the most I think. I have three incision marks on my tummy which all hurt if I touch them (the belly button one hurts the most). I still have lots of dried blood but I can't get it to come off very easily (and the thought of scrubbing there makes me feel a little faint!).

I finished reading the Marie Antoinette book I was working on (The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson) and am now starting A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Writers on why we read Jane Austen (edited by Susannah Carson). Neither are difficult reads but I think that is what my brain needs right now.

And that's about it. Jim is the best nurse ever, by the way! He doles out my scary pile of drugs (and they all have different schedules). And he has been a great couch pillow!

Thanks again to everyone for your support (Laurie -- I am walking around wearing your hat today! Rachel -- Hope the new puppy is letting you sleep! And thanks for all the get well cards from everyone!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Back Home!

Left the hospital about 6pm last night. I never saw my surgeon who was the person we were waiting on so I could be released. Dr D did talk to me by phone -- there was some concern about the gas still in my stomach, which is what we think is causing the most pain. Dr D had the nurse give me something stronger and then they released me about 2 hours later. I was a little disappointed that I didn't see the surgeon before I left BUT at least I got to go home. So now I'm hanging out in bed -- though I have passed some gas, my stomach is still pretty bloated and painful. I'm hoping that gets better as the day goes on. I don't particularly like just hanging out in bed! I do have a few books I've been dying to read so I guess it's not all bad ...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hospital Girl!

I will have to make this quick since I'm typing on my phone. But I wanted to let folks know that the surgery went well. My abdominal area is killing me and I'm pretty tired since the nurse kept waking me up to take my vitals every three hours or so. I can get up and go the bathroom now though getting up and down seriously hurts! The pain medication helps but still seems to be a small amount of pain and discomfort that is lingering. If I am lucky, I'll get released this afternoon from Barnes-Jewish so I can rest at home .... My stomach is still bloated from the gas they pumped into me in order to do the surgery so I feel like I have a pregnant lump (there is no way that my jeans will fit me so I'm glad I brought my Old Navy pajama bottoms!). I am supposed to be going through menopause in the next day or two (Doc said it would hit fast and furious now that the ovaries are gone). So I am a little nervous about that. :(

Thanks to everyone! I was so nervous yesterday (I Broke out in tears in front of everyone before surgery!).

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the Way to the Hospital!

A quick post as we are about to leave for the hospital! Well, I survived the colonoscopy-like prep but it sure wasn't pretty! That whole process is so NOT fun! I think the worse thing this morning is that I am just plain scared -- and hungry! I am also tired (it's not quite 5 AM yet) but I suppose that I will be "out" for much of the day so maybe I will catch up on sleep then!

OK -- so just this on more "thing" to accomplish before finishing my treatment. This has been a long six months -- I keep telling myself that I just have to get through this last hurdle and then I am good to go. I just wish I weren't so nervous. I hate doctors and I hate hospitals (nothing personal but ....).

So here I go. It is weird to think that when I come back to this blog I will be finished with my treatment for breast cancer. And I will be missing my ovaries and uterus. And maybe then I can start getting my life back, though. I miss everything being "normal" .... thanks to everyone for your encouragement and support. I can't express how much I appreciate it all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bad Blogger Girl

Sorry for the delay in posting ... a big part of it had to do with the end-of-the-semester mess that always happens -- papers, essays, projects. But as of Friday, I am now done until the next semester starts (I have to be back at SWIC on Jan 10).

Friday was also an important day because of something else -- the last day or radiation! I had to do a double rad on Friday (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) but at least it's all DONE! We had to push things a little toward the end because it was important that I be done with radiation before the big surgery -- which is on Monday, Dec 20 (tomorrow!).

Because this is the day before the surgery, I have already started the prep which is sort of like getting a colonoscopy (not that I have ever had one). So today I can only have clear liquids and starting at 3 PM, I take the stuff that is going to make me hang out in the bathroom for the rest of day ... I guess I have to go through this because the surgery is so close to my uteral "parts" and the surgeon wants to make sure everything is nice and clean in case anything bad happens. It doesn't help that one of my closest friends is having a huge party at her house today and I won't be able to eat anything! Big bummer! But I want to go so she is making me some broth to sip during the party (but we will definitely be leaving by 3!).

So here is the official surgery name -- brace yourself because it's a long one! Total Laparescopic Hysterectomy, Bilateral Salping Oopherectomy, Colpopexy, Cystescopy with Placement of Lighted Ureteral Stents. Whew. That's a lot of stuff -- much of which I don't really understand. But what I do get is that by doing this, I cut down estrogen production and completely lower my odds of breast cancer happening again (since my test results showed this to be a big possibility).

So there you go. Chemo -- done. Radiation -- done. And now just this. I will have to stay at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for at least one night but it could be more if my body doesn't bounce back fast. As you can imagine, I am going to do my best to make this a one night stay. I am terrified of the whole surgery thing but I guess I just have to think positive and get through this one last ordeal.

I tried to get all the Christmas stuff done (i.e. Christmas cards and sending out a few gifts) but I didn't quite finish and the house is a little messy.

Anyway -- I guess what doesn't get done, doesn't get done!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wow .. it's Friday!

So this has been a long, difficult week! I think, looking back, that it was just the last of the chemo drugs working their way through my body, making me feel sick(and sluggish). And it didn't help that those darn intestinal issues flared up again (again, chemo drugs?) and that always makes me feel pretty tired. But, I am hopeful that the worst is behind me!

Two more big things made this a bad week. First, the radiation (the picture above is NOT me -- but it shows you the cradle and the position I have to stay in throughout the procedure). I will not be exposing my breast in this blog by providing pictures but let's just say that my right breast and upper chest are bright red and my nipple is turning black around the edges. Itch, itch, itch. Not fun. I see the radiology oncologist again later today (I saw her Wed, too) and it "can" happen -- especially since I am already allergic to the sun to start with in my normal life (I break out in weird rashes when I get too much sun).

And the other bad thing was meeting with the surgeon this past Tuesday. I don't know why I didn't realize that I am about to have major surgery -- I guess I thought it would be like the two lumpectomies -- surgery but not that big of a deal. So officially I am having a Total Laproscoptic Hysterectomy and Bilateral Salping Oophrectomy with a Cystescopy with Placement of Lighted Urethral Stents. Not really sure what most of that means except for the hysterectomy and oophrectomy parts. But Dr D, the surgeon, said this will take about 5-6 hours of surgery and the prep for the surgery is sooooo complicated! Just like with the lumpectomies (my only other surgeries ever), I have to do some appts related to making sure I can get through the surgery (i.e. lung scans). The day before the surgery I can't eat at all -- instead, I will have to do the same course that you do for a colonoposky -- the yechy stuff that makes your bowels move through you. I am so disappointed that my one of my dear friends is having a house warming party that day for her gorgeous new house -- I was so looking forward to enjoying her party and now I will just get to watch people eat while I start taking laxatives (and then leaving quickly for home!). Not fun.

My summer break was taken up with breast cancer and now my winter break will be recovering from the surgery on December 20 (I am not looking forward to having to stay in the hospital). So I am feeling a little bitter, I guess. I've worked hard at scheduling things around my teaching schedule as much as possible but I guess that effort has left me feeling exhausted, esp. as we near the end of the semester.