“I’m ready to kick this cancer’s ass!”

My wife the rocker!

It was a tough weekend for Patty.  I think the anticipation of starting chemo, waiting for the results of the bone scan and just being frustrated with the whole situation got to her.  I don’t blame her.  She’s been so strong up to this point, I think a day of just feeling sorry for yourself is definitely warranted! 

Another doctor’s appointment this afternoon.  This has been a week straight of appointments!  It’s getting old and we’re both feeling the strain of it.  Let’s see… starting last Monday it was the bone scan… Tuesday was with the reconstruction surgeon… Wednesday was a heart scan… Thursday was a pap… Friday was blood work and another appointment with the reconstruction surgeon… Saturday we had an unexpected trip to Urgent Care… Sunday we met with the reconstruction surgeon again… Today is with the Oncologist.  Hopefully the results of the bone scan are what we hope for.  We’ve both been having our daily, hourly and by the minute conversations with God praying for good news.  Oh, looking at the clock, it’s time to run… I’ll finish this when we get back.

Ok.. we’re back!  We met with the Oncologist.  She was running about an hour late today!  Not good.  Patty was a little on edge knowing she’d find out the results of the bone scan.  Our appointment was at 3:15 p.m. and we were called in to the room sometime close to 4:30 p.m.  Our Oncologist came in, looked at Patty and said:  “Ok Patty, are you ready to do this tomorrow?”  Patty replied:  “I am, but how were the results of my test?”  The Oncologist replied: “Oh, I didn’t tell you?  They’re fine!  Everything was normal.”  Patty did a modified “happy dance!”  She never got up off the examining table, but still was able to do the dance!  You could see the weight had immediately lifted off her shoulders!  Patty’s mood immediately did a 180 degree turn!  My wife was back!

The really good news is that Patty has no more testing to do in the immediate future!  (Other than a blood test every three weeks to check her blood cells, which is no big deal.)  No more waiting for test results!  No more waking up in the middle of the night worrying about where the cancer has spread!  Her body has literally been scanned from head to toe!  There is not one secret about Patty’s body that the doctors are not aware of!  Even though the chemo will be a completely new trial for us, we’re hoping we can now get into some type of routine for the next few months until this is finished. 

Patty was in such a good mood when we left the doctor’s office.  She’s never been more ready to fight this fight!  As we walked across the parking lot to our car, she looked at me and said in a very determined manner: “Ok.  I’m ready to kick this cancer’s ass!”  That’s what I want to hear!!!

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Mirror messages

 

Since the day Patty and I were married, we’ve always found a way to send “reminders” to each other when something important is going on in our lives.  We call them “Mirror Messages.”  All you need is some lipstick and a bathroom mirror!  Some people choose to send flowers. Our exchange of choice is the mirror message.  We do the mirror messages when something is hanging over our heads; one of us is out of town for a few days or even sometimes a simple “I love you” mirror message is just a reminder to the other that “Hey!  I love you!”

I thought I’d share these pictures as our most recent mirror message.  These mirror messages started a couple of months ago when Patty initially had the prognosis that the cancer had metastasized and it was “incurable.”  It started with the reminder to Patty that “You and I are a team!”  (this was a reminder that she was not alone in this battle!)  Then the messages morphed on the mirror as we waited for all the  test results.   “Keep it in the boob!”  (That was in hopes that the cancer hadn’t spread.)  Then you see “Lord, we love you and trust in you…”  Then we got the good news that the cancer hadn’t spread and they were treating for cure.  I wrote: “God loves us… and answered our prayers!”  Patty added the “Amen!!”

These mirror messages stayed up at least a month.  They do get in the way at times!  It gets kind of tough to “prep” in the morning before work.

Obviously this is one of my favorites!

There you have it!  Mirror Messages!

Fear

Webster’s Dictionary describes “Fear” as ” an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or the possibility of impending danger.”  This completely describes the emotion we’ve lived for the past several months!  Since the beginning of this mess, Patty has undergone every test imaginable!  Countless blood tests, ultra-sound, biopsy, chest x-rays, PET Scan, CT Scan, Marker scans, Bone scan, Heart scan… I’m sure I’m leaving some out but you get the gist.  The common denominator of all these tests is the waiting time to get the results.  Unfortunately the person administering the test is not a doctor, therefore they cannot tell you the results of the test.  You have to wait to meet with the doctor to hear the good  or unpleasant news.  Of course, the mind is a terrible thing during these “waiting” times!  The mind can be your worst enemy!  Both Patty and I know that, but it’s just a fact! 

Patty had a bone scan this afternoon.  Our Oncologist wasn’t very concerned about the test but said it was more of a formality to take off the “checklist.”  Now, I heard her say that plain as day, but Patty was obviously very concerned that she had to go through another test!  So, she did it and now we’re back in the waiting game!  Our Oncologist is on vacation this week and Patty doesn’t have an appointment with her until next Monday, August 30th.  My guess is we won’t hear a word about it until then!  Having gone through this “waiting” period more than once over the past few months and trying to carry on a normal life during this time is very difficult!  I’m sure when we meet with the oncologist next week, she’ll nonchalantly say: “Oh, by the way, your bone scan came back normal!”  But, that doesn’t help us out over the next 7 days! 

Patty is a very strong woman!  She’s also normal!  I’ve tried putting myself in her shoes, but even then, I know I can’t get close to feeling the fear that she experiences!  We have God in our lives and we’ve got an amazing support system, but fear is an emotion that’s often hard to battle!  Like I’ve said (and you’ve read me say) a million times, dealing with cancer is an emotional vs. intellectual battle… the emotional side generally wins!

Wig shopping!

 

 

(I know this picture has nothing to do with wig shopping… I just like this picture of Patty and our granddaughter, Mia)

Well, since it’s now official that Patty will lose her hair during the chemo process, we decided to be ahead of the game and go wig shopping.  We weren’t sure what to expect since this whole thing is so foreign to us.

We found a place located in Mission Valley called A Greater Hope that was recommended by Scripps .  Patty had an appointment at 11:30.  We both arrived at the same time (we’re such a team!)  Inside we were met a woman, Orfelia, who brought us in a private room.  Patty was a little apprehensive at first, but within a few minutes she was totally into the whole “wig” experience!  It was actually fun!  She tried on a number of wigs for style, then for color.  In no time at all she found the cut that is very similar to her current cut then found the right color.  Wham Bam!  That was too easy!  The wigs are pretty amazing.  They’re so lifelike!  And, they feel so real! 

Orfelia was great.  She deals on a daily basis with cancer patients going through chemo.  She was very understanding, patient and really worked with Patty to feel comfortable with her decision.

Orfelia then brought out accessories!  (I knew this was way to easy!)  The accessories consisted of scarves, wraps, sleeping caps and hats  in every color and print imaginable!  Now Patty was in her element… shopping!  I do have to admit, Patty really isn’t one for wearing hats and scarves, but let me tell you… she looked GREAT!!!  She has such a pretty face that the lack of  hair makes no difference.  In fact there was one look with  a scarf and hat that looked pretty classy and sexy!!!  (Hmmm… maybe this chemo thing may not be so bad after all!)  She ended up picking up a few accessories and that ended our day. 

So, Patty’s going to try to be ahead of this hair loss game.  She’ll make an appointment with Orfelia about ten days after her chemo to have her head shaved and go into her new look!

Chemo Orientation = information overload!

Scripps Torry Pines Cancer Center offers a “Chemo Orientation” to all new chemo patients.  Our oncologist recommended we attend.  So we attended the weekly orientation yesterday afternoon.  The hour class provided us with the reality of what was in store for us with Patty’s next battle. 

There was me and Patty and another woman and her family attending the class.  It sounded like the woman had the same diagnosis as Patty and her chemo was starting the week after Patty’s.  The nurse facilitating the class was very matter of fact when discussing this issue.  She started the class by saying:  “The reason you’re going to go through chemo is because we’re going to cure you from cancer!”  This was a statement both Patty and I hung on to throughout the next hour and will be hanging onto throughout the next few months to come.  The word “cure” will keep us going!  Patty and I went into “information overload” for the remainder of the presentation.  Her next statement was: “Yes, you will lose your hair.  You may lose  your eyebrows and eyelashes, but everything will begin growing back about three weeks after your final treatment.”  This statement was followed other side effects such as fatigue, nausea, low blood count etc etc etc.  Don’t expose yourself to too much sun.  Make sure you wear sunscreen.  Wear sunglasses if you lose your eyelashes.  Don’t expose yourself to anything that can make you sick… the cat box, fruit that doesn’t have a hard skin, acidic drinks such as lemonade or tomato juice.  Make sure you do this and definitely make sure you don’t do that.  It was really a ton of information that she provided.  Thank God we’ve got handouts that we can review.  The nurse then took us for a tour of the room/ward where they administer the chemo.  It’s a newly remodeled room and was very comfortable.  It still seemed like a hospital even though they have comfy chairs, a TV with a DVD player in your specific area and a view of Torrey Pines with a golf course in the forefront and a million dollar view of the ocean.  Patty’s treatments will take anywhere between three and four hours so it’s awesome that they provide whatever they can to make her comfortable during this time.  I’m guessing there were five or six people in the area receiving their treatment when we were there.  The youngest was a woman in her 20’s and the oldest was around 80.  Everyone smiled as we walked past them and all, but one, had friends and family with them. 

The class concluded  and Patty and I left feeling a little overwhelmed.  This whole journey, the diagnosis, the mastectomy and now chemo, are now a reality!   As we entered the parking lot I asked Patty how she felt.  She, half-joking, said:  “I feel like I want to throw up!”

We can do this!  August 31st is right around the corner!

A quiet week!

Sorry I haven’t written much this week.  It’s been pretty quiet.  I guess you could call this the “quiet before the storm?”  Patty’s son Nate and his family are in town right now.  Good timing and that little granddaughter of ours, Mia, really helps keep Patty occupied.  Today is her 5th birthday so we going to her birthday party in a little while. 

Even thought I’m calling this a “quiet week” that, as Patty calls it, “Elephant in the room” is still looming!!!

We had an appointment with the reconstruction surgeon yesterday and he said everything was looking great from his side.  Patty’s right on schedule with the healing process.

Tomorrow we’re going to an “orientation” at the hospital with the chemo nurses.  We’re both really happy they’re offering such a thing since we have no idea what to expect when we show up on the 31st for Patty’s first treatment.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  I realized the other day that I had miscalculated when Patty will finish her chemo.  Initially I calculated it with her final treatment on January 4th.  Well, I recalculated the other day and her last treatment is actually December 14th!  That was good news!!!  She’ll go through the Christmas Holiday’s chemo free!

Patty has a bone scan scheduled for Monday.  She’s dreading one more test!  But, we’ve got to do what’s necessary to someday get our lives back to normal!

National City “Relay for Life”

Patty and I attended the National City Relay for Life this past Saturday.  A 24 hour benefit walk for the American Cancer Society.  A friend of mine, who’s mother is a 14 year breast cancer survivor, asked me a couple of weeks ago if Patty would speak at this event and share her experience.  It was funny, when I asked Patty if she would be interested in speaking, she didn’t hesitate in the least.  She immediately answered “absolutely!”  Later she told me: “If I can touch and help even one person, it’s worth it!”  Knowing how much Patty loves public speaking, I was surprised with her quick response!  (I hope you know that I’m being very sarcastic with that comment!) 

We arrived shortly before the opening ceremony which started at 10:00 a.m.  We met up with my friend and her family.  This girl has a huge family.  When I say huge, I mean huge.  Her mother, the 14 year cancer survivor, has something like 12 sisters and 4 or 5 brothers, so when you add in children, cousins, nephews etc, it’s a huge family.  Most of whom were present.  This is a very loving and close family who has been affected by some form of cancer many times over.  Some have survived, but sadly, many have not. 

The opening ceremony was very moving!  A lot of tears shed by many people.  There were several cancer survivors who spoke, telling their story.  It was very inspiring!  From the beginning, I felt this was something that Patty needed to experience, but actually being there and listening to these people speak, I knew it would help Patty.  The opening ceremony ended and the walk began.  The survivors lead the walk, followed by hundreds of people all with a common cause… fellowship, support and encouragement.  (Of course it was also to raise money for cancer research)  It was really a sight to be seen!

This was really quite the event!  Every “team” had a booth set up.  The air was filled with the aroma of  every kind of barbecue you could imagine!  Believe me, there was no shortage of food.  Some families had decorated their booths with posters and photographs of love ones who have lost their lives to cancer.  Other’s had items to raffle, such as Charger season tickets, Coach purses, gift baskets etc, all to raise money for the cause.  Last year this group raised over $82,000 for American Cancer Society!  Their goal was to beat that number this year!

Patty was scheduled to speak at 2:45 that afternoon.  She had given some thought to what she would say earlier in the week, but the juices just weren’t flowing for her.  I think it was Thursday afternoon and she told me: “Ed… I’m just cancered out!  I can’t think about it anymore!”  I didn’t blame her!  We were both pretty much “done” with cancer!  She decided she wouldn’t think about it until sometime that afternoon, then she’d throw something together.  Well as the morning went on and knowing my wife as I do, I could tell she was getting a little tense that she was not prepared to speak in a few hours.  So around 1:00 p.m. we walked off and found a picnic table off to the side so she could gather some thoughts.  It took her about 45 minutes and she had a rough draft on paper.  She read it to me and it was definitely from the heart and very touching. 

My daughter and her husband showed up to the event shortly after 2:00 p.m. to lend Patty their support.  Patty was very appreciative of them being there.  But, the clock was ticking and 2:45 was getting closer… I could see Patty having a little internal stress party going on!  The time finally came and a woman on the stage called Patty’s name and asked her to come up.  Patty walked on stage with me closely behind for support.  (Patty was really concerned that she’d break down crying so we had agreed several days earlier that I’d go up on stage with her and if she couldn’t finish, I’d take over for her.  We’re such a team!)  The woman introduced Patty, handed her the microphone and it was “show time”! 

Patty had her notes in her hand but started off  “shooting from the hip,” not following her notes at all.  I was behind her thinking “Where is she going with this???”  She told the audience about her cancer.  How she was initially mis-diagnosed.  She told the audience to be strong and if you’re not happy with your doctor… find someone else!  It’s ok!  The audience applauded her!  She then talked about the three “F’s”, Faith, Family and Friends!  She told the audience how much God has played a role in our lives!  People again applauded!  She was now on a roll!

Here’s Patty telling the audience that she has such a great husband!  (Go figure!)

She talked over 10 minutes.  In her closing she told the audience with such conviction:  “I may have breast cancer, but I refuse to let the cancer have me!!!  I have grandchildren that will be born in the next few months and I plan on being around to see them grow up!!!”  It was awesome!  People again applauded!  At that moment, I was the proudest husband on the face of the earth!  My wife is going through such a devastating trial right now, but she was so strong and encouraging to others!  I was just so proud!

We walked off the stage and Patty was immediately contacted by a woman.  The woman told her that she was diagnosed last October with breast cancer, she had gone through the chemo and had seven radiation treatments left!  The woman was beautiful!  You wouldn’t never know what she had been through!  Her daughter was with her who I’d guess was 18 years old or so.  The woman told us that her daughter had taken a year off from college to take care of her.  Talking to this woman was very encouraging.  We definitely had a moment!  Other women came up to Patty, gave her hugs and thanked her for telling her story. 

Patty was so pumped up after speaking.  I haven’t seen her feel that good about herself and life in general in a long time!  As much as she hates public speaking, this was a moment we’ll never forget. 

We had been at the event pretty much the entire day and I could see Patty was getting tired.  We said our “goodbyes” to everyone and left.  As we drove home I could tell that Patty was still running off of adrenalin.  She looked at me and said: “I want to speak to more women.  I think I can help them!” 

Get ready… Patty can make a difference to others!