One step forward… two steps back, part II

Patty and Mia on the 4th of July, 2010

Those of you who know me know that my glass is always half full!  Always!  So I’m trying to put perspective on the outcome of Patty’s appointment today.  The ultrasound didn’t go as well as we hoped.  It turns out that the entire implant has rolled to the point where the mysterious valve is now on the back side against her chest wall.  So… the “procedure” the doctor spoke about yesterday has turned into surgery.  No quick procedure in her office… a little longer procedure at the hospital.  Surgery date is September 8th.

I guess one good thing is that it’s an outpatient surgery.  Another good thing is that the doctor said she couldn’t make any promises, however once in surgery, she’d see if she could fill the implant to the exact size as the other breast.  If so, there would be no future surgeries…. at least that would be the plan.  She emphasized that she wouldn’t know if it was possible until she got a good look at everything.

As I said in the previous post, Patty’s pretty frustrated.  We have so much going on right now.  1)  I’m going to be changing jobs in the next few weeks which means I’ll be changing employer insurance.  Obviously insurance needs to be in place for any future health related things for Patty so timing on this surgery is important.  2)  Our granddaughter, Mia, who is six and lives in Phoenix asked “Grandma Patty” if she could go to Phoenix to be with her on grandparents day.  Hmmmm… Grandparents Day just happens to be September 8th!  That trip is canceled.  3)  Having surgery next week is a pretty big setback on Patty’s recovery.  She was hoping to be ready to go back to watching Avery by the end of September.  Now it looks like it’ll be more like the middle of October.

Needless to say, Patty’s going through a lot right now.  “One more surgery”  is the last thing she wanted to hear.  But she’s realized that this is not under her control.  It’s just another hurdle in the road to recovery.

So, here I am… Mr. Optimistic who’s glass is always half-full grasping for something  positive out of all this…  Patty is alive and doing well!!!

The frustration of recovery!

 

Patty and friends at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life a couple weeks ago.

Patty’s recovery from the reconstruction surgery is going well.  She still has a long way to go, but overall she’s doing really well.  They started adding saline to her implant last week and she’s pretty excited to have a cleavage again!   

The initial recovery period from the surgery was pretty painful.  She hid it pretty well from me at first, but as I’ve said in many previous posts, her eyes tell the story.  She fooled me and was on the go pretty quickly.  Too quickly!  I should have known better.  Those of you who know Patty, know that she’s hard to keep down.  She wants to exercise and get back into her routine.  She can’t do it!  Not yet.  I could see she was tiring easy and “hitting the wall” by early afternoons.  So, I’ve had to put my foot down and limit her activities.  She’s begrudgingly cooperating… 

Up until surgery her “job” was watching our granddaughter, Avery.  The doctor told us that she wouldn’t be able to watch her full time again until at least 8 weeks after surgery.  She thinks it’ll take her 6 weeks, but I’m going to win this battle.  She needs to take as long as she needs.  Avery kept Patty pretty busy during the days, but now that Patty’s on her own, she gets pretty bored!  She’s been devouring a lot of books, which she loves, but she gets frustrated that she can’t do it all right now.  She’s doing so well, I just don’t want her to overdo it and, in turn, take longer for her recovery.

She has a doctor’s appointment next Monday to add more saline… a little at a time.  Right now it’s all about adding the saline which in turn stretches the skin until it’s the same size etc as the other breast. 

Patty’s been walking as often as possible… a couple miles at a time.  She’s impatiently wanting to push the walking farther to start training for the Komen walk in November!   

She needs to heal first… she has plenty of time!

Hope…

Wow!  Can you believe it’s already June!  Where did this year go?

We’ve been pretty busy.  Looking back to Memorial weekend, we did the usual barbecue’s with friends.   We stayed up way too late two nights of the weekend which really made me realize that we’re not in our 20’s anymore.  It takes days for us to recover after being up past midnight!   Doing that two out of three nights is painful!  That’s just wrong!  How did I get old?

We received some bad news the other day about a friend of ours who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and cancer of the liver.  For Patty and me, learning this news hit way too close to home.  Everything we went through over this past year came back to us.  I just had this sickening feeling in my stomach when I heard the news, similar to the one I felt when I learned the news about Patty. Patty felt the same.

Our friend and her sister are very close… they live just blocks from each other and do pretty much everything together.  This will be a difficult road for her, but she is a very strong woman.  I’m confident that the support system between her and her sister, her husband, family and friends will help her on her journey.

I talked with a man I know about six months ago who was asking about Patty.  This was back when Patty was in the throes of chemo.  I told him she was doing as well as could be expected at the time.  He shared a story with me that he said he hasn’t told many people.  Two years ago this coming August, he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  He said it was bad and the doctors told him since it had spread pretty much throughout his liver, that there wasn’t anything they could do for him other than make him as comfortable as possible.  The prognosis was not good at all as they predicted he’d live for another six months at most.  He said it took a while but he finally accepted their prognosis.  Even though he accepted it, he didn’t give up researching any possible treatments to buy him some time.  He told me his research revealed a doctor at UCSD Medical Center who was trying a new technique for people with liver cancer.  He met with the doctor as soon as he could.  The doctor told him that people could survive with only 27% of their liver.  The liver regenerates itself and, in time, can re-grow back to its original size.  He told me he had nothing to lose so they scheduled his surgery.  The doctor removed 70% of his liver, taking the cancer with it.  Long story short, here he is, 22 months out of surgery, his liver has grown back to 100% of its original size and he’s cancer free!  Amazing story!

Cancer has been in the backseat of our lives for a couple of months now.  It’s not the first topic of discussion for us.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s brought up pretty much every day, but it’s not the main topic, until we learned of our friend.  Learning of her diagnosis brought cancer back into the forefront.  Like I said, it hit too close to home.  Patty told me the other night that if there was one thing she learned through her battle, it’s that life can be unexpectedly taken away from you in a second.  It can be taken away by cancer… taken away by a tornado like the poor people in Joplin,Missouri… taken away on your daily drive to work. You never know.  This may sound a bit cliché but it’s so easy to take life for granted.  Most of us have our health other than a few new aches and pains we feel when we hit our 50’s.  We have our family and friends who are all doing well. It’s just the way it is… day in and day out.  As a result, we get complacent about life and take it for granted.  Patty said once you face a life threatening disease, it all changes.  You appreciate everything!

I guess what I’m saying is that there is always hope.  Never lose sight of that!  Hope is the trust that circumstances in the future will be better.  It’s not a wish that things will get better, but an actual belief and trust in God from deep within your heart, even when there may be no evidence that anything will change.  Only God knows the outcome of each and every one of our lives.  We just need to believe in Him and have hope and faith for a positive outcome.  It all comes down to God’s will.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

Cancer has taken a back seat to life!

Patty and I have so much going on!  Our biggest focus right now is getting the condo packed up and prepare for the move next Thursday into out new house.  We had a pretty big concern thrown at us with the possibility of a Governmental shut down.  There was news about FHA loans being put on hold until the Government decides what they’re going to do with the federal budget.  (by the way, we have a FHA loan which is supposed to fund next Wednesday!!!)  I spoke to our mortgage broker this morning and she assured me that this will not affect our loan and it will be funded on Wednesday as scheduled!  Phew!

As Patty and I talked last night I realized that our life is really  moving forward after the past year.  There were times last year when both of us felt there was really no end in sight.  But you know what, there was and there is!

In this “new normal” phase were going through we notice is that cancer is NO LONGER the main topic of discussion.  Do you realize how good that feels?  Going through Patty’s treatment, cancer was all we could talk about.  It totally consumed all phases of our lives!    Cancer is still a topic of our discussions, and it comes up in our discussions at least once a day, but it’s just not the main topic anymore.

Patty told me last night that she still gets frightened.  If you know Patty, she’s a very strong woman.  Very strong.  She relayed to me that just the other night after we went to bed, she lay there in the dark and found her mind wandering.  She started worrying about the “what if’s?”  “What if the cancer comes back?”  “What if the ache in my back is cancer?”  She said this was not the first time she has been frightened over the past couple of months.  She said it happens often.  Ironic, but when Patty was first diagnosed and receiving her initial treatments, her worst time was at night… in the dark.

I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for women who have gone through the battle of a life threatening disease, such as cancer, to have reoccurring fears, thoughts and even dreams/nightmares about the disease coming back.  The whole experience is still relatively new for Patty.  It’s something that will take time.  Quiet honestly, I don’t think the fear factor will ever go away, for either of us.  This is the reality of dealing with cancer.  It never goes away.  Sure, some days are easier than others.  Patty is going forward with her life.  As great as she’s doing, those darned thoughts are still able to creep into the back of her mind.  I’m very proud of how strong she is.    Cancer is very scary!!!

Overall, Patty is doing great!  Her hair is getting thicker and thicker by the day.  It’s actually grown to the point where it’s touching her ears!  She said she thinks that she’ll stop wearing the wig next week and start going out in public “au natural!”  I’m excited for her!  She’s on the prowl for a “sassy” hairstyle for really short hair.

Patty is still suffering the side effects of chemo… neuropathy.  In a nutshell, neuropathy is nerve damage that can be caused by the chemo that causes numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.  It’s like your feet and hands going to sleep 24/7!  Patty says it’s painful at times.  I can only imagine!  The neuropathy started sometime after her 3rd infusion.  Patty’s oncologist said the neuropathy goes away with time, but Patty’s not seeing any improvement.  She has an appointment with a neurologist next Wednesday.   We’re hoping he can help.

We like the “new normal” of cancer not being the focus of our conversations or lives.  It never completely disappears.  It’s always there as the footnote to each and every day.  Some days the topic is more in the forefront than others.  Patty still has many future appointments with her oncologist and future tests to take.  She still has the reconstruction to go through.  I’m sure when we experience those days or weeks, cancer will temporarily take charge of our lives again.  But only temporarily.

Right now, we’ll take cancer being in 2nd place in our life!

Sometime emotions catch you when you least expect it!

I know… I know… it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged.  I know I said I’d keep this up, so I’ll try to do better. I promise!

 Last Thursday, Patty and I had the privilege of being the guest speakers for the National City American Cancer Society Relay for Life Kickoff!  The plan was that Patty would speak first about her experience then I would follow with speaking about the “husband’s perspective.”   

 I have about a half hour drive to and from work each way.  This is my “thinking” time.  So about a week before this event I gave a lot of thought about what I would say and ran it though my head until I felt comfortable.  Patty, on the other hand, is busy with Avery during the day and is pretty exhausted by the end of the day.  She had somewhat of an idea what she would talk about and the morning of the event she took some time to put her thoughts on paper.  

 Patty is so funny.  She is a great public speaker and you’d think it just came naturally to her.  That is anything but the truth.  She’s a nervous wreck!  I got home from work that Thursday afternoon around 3 p.m.  Patty was sitting on the couch holding Avery.  I can read her like a book!  I could just feel the tension in anticipation of speaking radiating from her.  She said she had written her talk down and would most likely end up reading it at the event.  (Again… I know her, she’ll start by reading but end up freelancing without notes.)  

 We got to the event early, about an hour early to be exact!  It was at a restaurant so we had time to have some dinner.  Little did we know that they were serving dinner at the event!  It’s ok… it kept Patty busy and her mind somewhat off public speaking.  The event started at approximately 6:30 p.m.  The Chairman of the Relay started things off followed by the Mayor of National City who said a few words.  Then they announced  “Patty Sousek and her husband, Ed, are going to speak about their experience with cancer.”  People clapped as Patty held her speaking notes in a sweaty death grip and we made our way to the podium.  Patty talked first.  She placed her now crumpled notes on the podium and started things off.  She did really well. Her voice never quivered and she was just the Patty we all know and love.   As I knew… she started by reading her notes word for word then shortly thereafter, she used her notes to just trigger talking points.  It was very heartfelt!  I stood behind her with complete pride!  They had told us to keep our talk short and Patty finished easily under 5 minutes.  Then came my turn.  I’ve done a lot of public speaking over the years and I do a lot of public speaking in my current job, so getting in front of a crowd doesn’t intimidate me in the least.  In fact, those of you who know me, know that I just love being the center of attention.  I had a pretty good outline in my head of what I wanted to cover and I was confident I could do this from my heart.  I started my talk.  Things were going well for the first minute or so, then it happened!  I was starting to say: “Then came June 22nd… a day I’ll never forget, the day Patty was officially diagnosed with cancer.”  About three-quarters of the way through that sentence, I was engulfed with emotion like a title wave!  I had to stop because I knew what was to follow!  TEARS!!!  I thought to myself: “Ok Ed… get a grip!”  I stopped speaking and hung on!  You could hear a pin drop at this moment!  Within maybe 10 seconds I could feel the emotions passing!  I thought “Phew… I dodged a bullet on that one!”  At least I got through it and didn’t act like a blubbering fool!  So I continued with that sentence about June 22nd.  Immediately that damned wave of emotions hit me again!  “Ok Ed… What’s going on here?”  I had to stop again… I closed my eyes for a second and did a quick prayer in my head…. “God… help me get a grip!”  I looked up at the silent crowd staring at me… I said: “Wow… I don’t know where this is coming from!” and continued with my talk.  My talk lasted, with those two interruptions, about 10 minutes. 

Those two waves of emotions really caught me by surprise!  I’ve never spoke in public about something so personal as this.  It was almost like reliving the day when Patty got the official word that she had breast cancer.  That was a pretty painful day for both of us. 

We plan on speaking in public about our story whenever asked.  This little bump of mine won’t hold me back.  I think I’ll be a little more mentally prepared, but then again, people knowing I was close to tears, showed just how this impacts your life.  I couldn’t have scripted it any better!

We got home that evening around 8:00 p.m. and got busy packing for our trip up to Placerville and Lake Tahoe for the weekend.  That’ll be my next blog.

Praise God!!!

Patty and Avery were both pretty happy after today’s doctors appointment!

You can tell by the title of this post (and also from this picture)  today’s appointment was good!

Patty woke up this morning frightened to learn the results of Tuesday’s CAT Scan.  She wears her emotions on her face and it was pretty obvious how she was feeling.  Thank God Patty now watches Avery during the day as that precious granddaughter of ours keeps Patty’s mind from spinning!  Still, her 11:00 appointment couldn’t come soon enough!

I took today off to support Patty with whatever the scan results revealed.  Even though I was pretty confident that the results would come back good, I woke up this morning a little scared thinking “what if I was wrong!”  I took Molly for a long walk this morning and thought things out as well as had a comforting discussion with God.  By the time I got home I felt confident that I could deal with and support Patty with whatever the results revealed.

We packed Avery up and were on our way for the appointment around 10:15, arriving at the doctor’s office a little before 11:00.  We had about a 15 minute wait before being called back.  We learned that Avery is a magnet for nearly anyone within eye shot of her as she had the entire waiting room hovering around us saying what a cute and happy baby she is!  Of course, Avery smiled and flirted with everyone!

The moment of truth finally came!  We walked back to the exam room and were met by the Pulmonary Specialist within minutes.  He is the nicest man!  His presence makes you feel comfortable the moment he walks in the room!  We chatted for a few minutes, he looked at the scan and said: “Well Patricia.  My radiologist is very comfortable with the results.  He doesn’t see anything.  I don’t see anything.  Everything looks clear!!!”  Praise God!

Today was just huge in the big picture of our journey!  The clear CAT Scan means we’re now done with the treatment phase!  Looking forward, Patty will see her oncologist every three months for the next year.  She’ll see the pulmonary specialist in six months and at that time all he’ll want to do is a chest x-ray as opposed to another CAT Scan.  If things are still looking good she won’t need another scan or chest x-ray for another year! 

Thanks again for all your support and prayers!  We’re firm believers in the power of prayer.  We’re even more confident that God has been with us this entire journey!

Patty said she wants to toast today with some champagne!  We’ll see if her taster is up for it!

21 days since Patty’s last chemo!

Today marks a very special day for Patty.  If you recall, Patty was having her chemo every 21 days on Tuesdays.  She had her last chemo on December 14th, 21 days ago. And you know what?  She doesn’t have to go today!  We talked about it last night and I can’t tell you how happy she is to have the chemo completed!  Chemo really did a number on her, physically as well as mentally.  But, she’s done.  We had our little “No-Mo-Chemo” celebration three weeks ago.  It meant a lot to her, but today really brings it home!  It makes it real.  She’s done!

Patty is physically doing really well!  While going through chemo, she’d get to this point where she’s getting stronger, then “wham!”  Back to chemo and loose whatever strength she had.  But now, she’s just going to get stronger and stronger each day.  She’s been feeling so good that she actually went to a Jazzercise class last week.  She’s hoping to go to a couple this week.  The other thing is that she’s getting her three-week fuzz on her head.  This “three-week” fuzz will actually start turning into hair over the next few weeks.  It’s kind of funny because Patty is getting a little impatient with the lingering chemo side effects.  She wants to feel 100% right now!  She’s wants her hair to grow back right now!  I try telling her that it’s going to take some time, but do you think she’ll listen to me!  Not a chance! 

Patty has some doctors appointments coming up.  Next week she meets with the reconstruction doctor who will give us a game plan for the upcoming months.  She also has an appointment with our chemo Oncologist next week.  She’ll also give us a game plan for the upcoming months.  Then she has a very important appointment the following week… she has her first follow-up CT Scan.  This is to see if there is any cancer lingering that may have traveled to other parts of her body.  She is very worried and anxious about this test.   She has shared her anxiety with me.  Right now there’s a lot of “what if’s?”  She explained that over the past six months, every treatment, test, consultation was done with a purpose.  She knew what was going on every step of the way.  Now that she’s completed her chemo, she’s back in limbo, not knowing what’s in store for her today, tomorrow, next week or in the distant future.  I told her that early on in her treatment, metastasis was a big concern of mine.  Since she had her last CT Scan in July which showed the cancer to be localized in her left breast, and after having the mastectomy, this is no longer a concern in the forefront of my mine.  Maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses, but I have faith that the doctors have given her the best treatment possible and I’ve prayed that this scan is clear.  Even hearing my thoughts, she’s still very anxious about this tests.  I do understand!  Having this anxiety, she decided to go to her cancer support group meeting yesterday over at Sharp Hospital. The support group meets every Monday.  Patty goes when she feels she needs some support from others whom have experienced what she’s going through.  She said that this group can sometimes be pretty depressing.  But, she went.  She said that going helped.  I guess what will really help is getting through this scan with great results!  Say your prayers for her!  

So, as before, we’re just taking life one day at a time.  It’s easier said than done, but we’re going to try not to worry about yesterday,  try not to worry about tomorrow and let’s make the most of today.  And today is all about no longer having chemo!

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne…What the heck does that mean???  You know how the song goes… “Should old acquaintance be forgot…”  I know it’s sung every New Years Eve when the clock strikes midnight, but the phrase “Auld Lang Syne” makes no sense to me!  Actually, each individual word means nothing to me!  I’ll be completely honest.  Up until recently (10 minutes ago), I actually didn’t know the phrase was “Auld Lang Syne.”  I used to sing it as: “For old ang sigh!”  Come on, admit it, I know many of you are guilty of this!  I’m certain people have sung it as: “For old ang zine”; “For hold ang zyne”; “For old aunt Gzyne”; “For old any sign”; “Foothold and sign”; “For the aunts of mine”! 

I looked each word up in the dictionary.  This is what I came up with:  Auld:  A Scot word for old.  Lang:  A Scot word for long.  Syne:  A Scot word for since.  What???  “Old long since?”  Ok, now I’m totally confused!  I need to keep digging!

I checked through Wikipedia.  Now I’m getting somewhere!  Once you read through all the gobblygoop, Auld Lang Syne is loosely translated as “For the sake of old times!” 

Remember the movie “When Harry met Sally?”  I found that they had a conversation about this.  So I’m not the only one!

Harry: “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. It means ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot.’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances or does it mean that if we should happen to forget them, we should remember them which is not possible because we already forgot about them?”

Sally: “Well maybe it just means that maybe we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends”

Bottom line… It is about old friends who have reunited and celebrating the friendship with a “cup of kindness”.  Booze!  I’m glad we got that straightened out!  That’s your lesson for the day!  If you’re at a New Years Eve party this year, and the conversation runs dry, use this tidbit to keep the party going!

Can you believe that 2010 is nearly over!  Wow, another year under out belt.  I’m pretty confident that 2010, unlike most previous years, will mark a “special” year in our lives.  It’ll definitely go down in the top 3 of “Years I’d never want to relive!”  

For Patty and me, 2010 has had its amazingly great times as well as low’s as low as they can get.  It’s had many challenges and trials that hopefully a lot of people never have to face.  Looking back over this year, I’ve realized that life is full of daily challenges… mental, emotional and physical.  Some challenges are greater than others, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that they’re still challenges. 

Lance Armstrong beat testicular cancer.  When all was said and done, he said that having cancer “Enriched” his life.  I thought long and hard about that statement and how it applied to Patty and me.  It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in life and sometimes it’s difficult to see the positive.  The last thing we’d want to do is give cancer credit for anything positive!  The truth is, dealing with cancer can change your life in positive and encouraging ways.  Here’s some thoughts on how our lives have been “enriched.”

We’ve learned that life is a privilege, not a given!  It can be taken away from you at any time.  Patty has always been in great shape.  Exercise has always been an important part of her life.  She’s the last one you would think would be diagnosed with breast cancer.  But, it happened.  It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our daily ritual and just take life for granted. We’ll never take anyone or anything for granted again!  Patty and I have talked about this many times.  She said her goal is to make the most out of every day and to always tell people how much they mean to her and how much she loves them!  I’m following her lead!  Don’t sweat the small stuff (it’s all mostly small stuff anyway). 

We’ve renewed our faith in God!  Patty and I were both brought up in Catholic families.  We both went through Catechism and everything that goes along with it.  We both drifted from our faith and, as we call it, have been a “work in progress” over the years.  We’d talked about going back to church for a number of years, but I’m embarrassed to admit it, it always seemed like something “more important” got in the way.  It’s interesting how quickly God comes back in your life when you’re faced with a life threatening disease.  We’ve learned how strong the power of prayer can actually be.  In Patty’s case, she went from an initial diagnosis of the cancer having metastasized and being incurable to localized and curable as a result of the power of prayer.  God let us know that Patty having breast cancer “Was not the end, but the start of a new beginning.” Patty and I now have a relationship with God.  We attend church on Sundays, pray regularly and praise God for the blessings he has given us! God has forever changed our lives!

You know the old saying “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family!”  You’d think that we’d hand-picked each and every one of them!  Patty’s battle has brought us closer to both.    We’re so blessed to have such a great family.   I made mention of this in my Christmas post… We’re so lucky to have such a close relationship with our kids!  All the kids have been so supportive through this trial.  They’ve not only brought us support, but also love and when needed, laughter!  Then take it a step further… our sisters, Patty’s brother, father, aunts and uncles have also been very supportive and given me a hand when times got a little tough!  There’s a bond between sisters that goes far beyond the “Secret order of Women” which I described in an early post.  These three (Patty, Kathy and Dottie) are quite the team!   We’ve learned that life is about people; love them and spend time with them while you can.  If you can’t love them then gently move on. Work at your most important relationships.

Last, but definitely not least, is how this disease has brought Patty and I so much closer.  It hasn’t been easy in the least.  It’s been a drain on both of us.  She’s my best friend and I know I’m hers!  There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for her and I know there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for me!  In the big scheme of things, I now know that God put us together for a reason.  We have so much love and respect for each other.  That love and respect has grown ten fold over the past nine months.  Who would have thought! 

So, using the “glass half full” theory, I guess there was a lot of positives that came from this trial! 

Here’s to a “quiet” and “uneventful” 2011!  We have so much to look forward to!  Come midnight tomorrow night (if we’re awake) Patty and I will raise a glass to each other as well as Auld Lang Syne!

We need to take it one day at a time!

Last night I leaned over and gave Patty a kiss on top of her shiny head and it hit me… “She’s really dealing with cancer!”  Please don’t get me wrong, we’ve been living this for the past six months, but last night was different.  It really hit me… hard!  The reality of all this came over me like a ton of bricks!  I felt bad for her and very frustrated for both of us.  I really want to fix this and make this go away for her, but I can’t.  I think I may have been running on auto-pilot for the past six months.  Having many years behind me in law enforcement, maybe my past training had taken over… whatever the problem is, handle it!  Don’t let the emotional part get in the way!  Just handle it!  

We were delivered some very frustrating news yesterday.  Without getting into specifics, Patty’s having some complications from the surgery.  (Don’t worry, there’s no more cancer)  The doctor feels they need to go back in to correct this problem.  So, surgery is scheduled for this coming Monday, Oct. 18th.  Surgery is at 1:00 p.m. and should take about an hour.  They say she’ll come home that same day.  

I’m really concerned about this procedure.  Patty just had chemo this past Tuesday.  If you remember my last post, I talked about how we’ve pretty much figured out how she’ll be feeling on a day-to-day basis over the next couple of weeks.  Well, my guess is she’ll probably be really fatigued come Monday!  Plus, they say that between day 7 through 14 following chemo, her white cells will be at their lowest and this is a time when she’s the most susceptible to infection.  My question is… How will all that affect her recovery from the surgery?  Another question I have is…  Will this procedure delay her next chemo treatment?  That’s the last thing we want!  We’re on a schedule and really don’t want any delays!  Patty put a call in to her Oncologist late yesterday to ask those specific questions.  She hasn’t gotten back to us yet.  

My hope is all this will be behind us come June 22, 2011 (Patty’s 1 year cancerversary).  Our life will be somewhat back to normal and we’ll look back at all this and say “Man, that was really messed up!”  (I do have another phrase for “messed up” but it’s probably not appropriate to put it in this post!)

“Three… two… one!”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, my wife is an amazing woman!  Yesterday was her third chemo infusion.  Yes, number three!  A milestone in her treatment!  The half way mark!  Patty was actually excited yesterday to have her next treatment!  I mean really excited!  I asked her “why?” to which she replied: “Because I’m one more treatment closer to being cancer free!”  She truly means that!  What a great positive attitude!!! 

Patty has done really well over the past week.  We’ve noticed a pattern through these treatments.  She deals with days “1 through 3” pretty well following her infusion, other than losing her taste buds.  Fatigue and body aches don’t really hit her until day “4” and lasts pretty strong through day “11”.  It seems like she starts to turn the corner about that time and begins to get stronger as each day comes.  Her taste buds start coming back about day “16” so this is when I start really cooking for Patty!  By day “18” or so, she’s doing pretty well, not back to normal, but much better than the previous week.  Then day “21” comes around and we get to do the whole cycle all over again!  

I hear people saying that this is just a “bump in the road” for us.  We’ve actually used that phrase a few times, but yesterday I had a chance to reflect on the past six months.  Sorry, but it’s hardly been a “bump.”  I don’t know the right word to describe this experience, in fact, I don’t need to find the correct word.  What I can say is that these past six months have not been easy!  But, it’s been a trial that has brought the two of us closer to each other like never before and it’s brought the two of us much closer to God. It’s been an experience that has literally turned our lives up-side-down as well as put our lives on hold.  But, you know what?  We’ve both accepted our lives for what they are right now and I’m confident we’ll get through this and carry on!  We’re both excited to see what the future has in store for us!  We talked yesterday and Patty told me that she’ll never take life for granted again.  That she wants to take in all she can daily.  We now have a new granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.  There’s a lot to look forward to! 

Since we’re trying to be as positive as we can through this ride, we’re now saying we’re on the “Countdown through Chemo”… “three… two… one!”  December 14th can’t come soon enough!

T.G.I.F.!!!

Patty and Nicole… Notice the “baby bump!”  She’s due any day now… the tummy is much bigger!

 

 

 

Thank God it’s Friday!  It’s been quite a week.   If someone would have told me six months ago that our life would be so upside-down right now, I’d tell them they were crazy!  Everything was going so well.  Patty retired.   We moved back to San Diego.  I found a great job.  The girls were both pregnant!  Wow… everything was falling into place.  Just when we were settling in and getting comfortable… God noticed and decided to wake us up and give us a challenge!  Challenges are good… keeps you on your toes!  Right? 

Monday was my last post.  In that post I was boasting how well Patty was doing from the last chemo infusion.  Last Saturday she was down for the count with fatigue.  Sunday, she was up and doing great.  But… Monday came here and the fatigue decided Patty wasn’t tired enough so he had his way with her.  She was down again for all of Monday and most of Tuesday.  She started getting her strength back on Wednesday and by the end of Thursday she was tired, but almost back to normal.  She’s been having little bouts with nausea but anti-nausea med’s seem to help quickly.  Today she seems to be doing great. 

Patty had an appointment with the Reconstruction Surgeon this past Tuesday.  He said everything was looking great other than the fact that the incision hasn’t healed 100%.  (it seems to be taking forever!)  The good thing is that he cleared her to start Jazzercise again, but low impact.  She’s ok with that.  But, since the incision isn’t 100% healed, he won’t let her use the pool!  Too bad since this week the weather has been in the mid to high 90’s with high humidity. 

We met with another Radiologist Oncologist yesterday.  He was very very thorough with us.  He used the paper that covers the exam table in the room as his drawing pad and gave us a Cancer 101 crash course!  He explained in layman’s terms everything one needed to know about breast cancer.  From how they find it, ultra-sound it, diagnose it, grade it, stage it, chemo it, radiate it… etc.  The bottom line in this appointment came at the end when he said: “In my opinion, you don’t need radiation therapy!”  That was great news and we’re happy Patty doesn’t need to extend her treatment any more than necessary.  If everything goes according to plan, December 14th will come around with her last chemo infusion then it’s back to healing and taking our lives off hold!  We pray that it stays that way! 

So, since Patty’s feeling pretty good today, and you know Patty, she jumped at the chance to go back to her love, Jazzercise!  She took a low impact class and absolutely loved it.  Everyone was really happy to see her back!  She then flew home, showered and met Nicole at the movies (some chick flick!)  She ran over to Kohl’s after the movie and bought a new pair of jeans (since she’s swimming in all her old jeans because she’s lost so much weight) and came home.

Speaking of weight… Patty’s probably lost about 20+ pounds over this whole ordeal.  She lost weight going through the initial diagnosis phase due to stress and anxiety.  Now she’s losing weight because her “taster” is all out of whack and food doesn’t taste good to her.  You’d think she’d stop losing weight with all the root beer floats and smoothies she’s consuming!  But, nope! 

Overall, the chemo is taking its toll on her, but once we’re at about 10 to 12 days into it following the infusion, she does great.  Her taster should start coming back by Sunday or Monday, then I’m going to do some serious cooking for her!

Patty took control!

It’s now been 8 days since Patty’s first chemo infusion.  A few of those days were pretty tough on her…  I see her getting stronger every day which is good because in a couple of weeks we get to do this again.  From what Patty tells  me, the hardest part for her (other than the fatigue and nausea) is that food does not taste good to her.  She has this weird taste in her mouth all the time.  From what we’ve read, it apparently taste metallic but Patty says there’s nothing metallic about it.  It’s just a bad taste which translates to great food tasting bad.  She said nothing is enjoyable to eat.  Right now she’s living on fruit milkshakes and cinnamon oatmeal! 

Patty had made a plan that she wanted to be as much in control of this situation as possible and not let the cancer or chemo dictate her life!  Knowing that losing her hair was a definite, she made an appointment to have her head shaved under her terms.  She initially had an appointment scheduled for this Friday, but after thinking about it, she changed it to today.  Thank God she made the change because last night she was brushing her hair and a small “clump” of hair came out!  Seeing that hair was a pretty good “reality check” for both of us.  It was a statement that this was really happening… it’s not just a bad dream!  We had a good talk last night about the whole situation and came up with a plan of attack and mindset that we needed for the rest of this battle.

Back to being in control!  I was concerned about how Patty would deal (emotionally) with her head shaved as last night she was pretty emotional.  I called her this morning from work.  She was in a great mood.  She said today is the best she’s felt since the last chemo!  I asked how she felt about having her head shaved today.  She told me that she wasn’t happy about it but what choice did she have?  She said: “I’ve decided I just have to have a sense of  humor about all of this!”  (That’s my girl!)

I met Patty at A Greater Hope (the wig place) where we met with Orfelia, the stylist.  Patty had a great attitude.  She told Orfelia: “I think Ed is more upset over this than me!”  (probably a true statement!)  Patty’s head was shaved within minutes!  Wow… I’m being very honest… she looks really great!  She has such a pretty face!  Orfelia then fitted her wig, trimmed a little here and there… done!  Patty left with a smile on her face!  She must be feeling better.  She told me that she was going shopping the rest of the afternoon!  She closed that statement with: “Hey, I just had my head shaved!  I deserve to go shopping!”  She kills me!

Here she is!  My new wife!

We knew it was too good to be true!

As you know, Patty had her first chemo this past Tuesday.  She did remarkably well through the process.  She has been feeling great this entire week… then yesterday hit.  Wham!  Like a freight train!  She woke up feeling a little tired and as the day progressed that feeling turned into big time fatigue with, as the doctors and nurses predicted, “flu-like symptoms.”  (By the way, the phrase “flu-like symptoms” doesn’t give it any credit.)  I got home a little early yesterday, around 2:00 p.m.  Patty was sitting on the sofa and you could see in her eyes that she wasn’t feeling well at all.  I brought her pillows and she crashed for a good 1 1/2 to 2 hour nap.  She woke up feeling better, but not 100%.   I could see her doing better as the evening progressed, hoping that she had turned the corner.  This morning she woke up feeling really well!  She said she wants to get on the treadmill this morning before we start our day!  That’s  a good sign!

So, we know what to expect in future treatments.  They say that the chemo will build up over each treatment and the symptoms get stronger.  So be it.  She still has a very positive attitude and she knows she’s getting better!

Monday, Sept 6th.  Ok… so I had to add to this post.  We were hoping she had turned the corner, but we were wrong.  She woke up Saturday morning feeling pretty good.  She actually went on the treadmill and walked two miles!  I was impressed.  She returned from the gym saying she felt pretty good, but a little nauseous.  She took a nausea pill and everything seemed to go away.  But, I could see her sinking as the day went on.  Her eyes don’t lie!  Early afternoon, she told me that she didn’t want to be cooped up in the condo.  (that condo can feel pretty confining!)  We decided to take a drive over to Coronado, be by the beach, and have a late lunch over at the Hotel Del.  We almost made it, then Patty told me she didn’t feel well so we turned around and headed for home.  We did stop in Rancho Bernardo and had lunch at Islands.  Food really helped her.  She ate a good lunch and seemed to be on the mend again.  We went home and as the evening approached, she wasn’t feeling well again.  We had a very quiet night.

She woke up Sunday feeling pretty good.  We got up  and had  a light breakfast.  I’d ask how she was feeling and if you know Patty she’ll always say “I’m fine.   I’m sure Patty was wondering what was up with me as I kept staring at her trying to size up how she was really feeling.  As I said, her eyes tell it all.  We showered and dressed and headed off to church.  (Church is always a good thing for us as it takes our mind off of any troubles we have!)  On the way Patty said: “I don’t understand it.”   She continued: “When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you physically feel fine.  You feel normal.  You can do anything.  But when they treat you for cancer, you feel horrible, physically and mentally!”  It’s so true!  We returned home from church and I asked if she wanted to go out somewhere for the afternoon.  She looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers and apologized, saying she just didn’t have it in her to go anywhere or do anything.  That was ok.  Patty  then went into the bedroom and took a good two-hour, if not longer, nap.  I cleaned the deck, watered the plants and watched the Padres lose their 10th game in a row!  (That’s another blog!)

Patty was able to go for a short outing with me to the grocery store and that was about it.  We had another quiet night at home.

I’m hoping today (Monday) will be a better day for Patty.  We’re both learning just how powerful chemo really is.  I just want her to feel better.  I know each day will get better for her, but the question is… when???

One down… five to go!

One down… Five to go!

Yesterday was Patty’s first of six chemo treatments.  She’s amazing!  She has such a positive attitude to take this on!  I’m confident the fact that there are no more tests in the immediate future is allowing her to concentrate on chemo.  Just being around Patty right now makes you feel good!

Her appointment was at 1:00 p.m. I worked in the morning and came home around 11:30.  We scarfed down a quick lunch since part of Patty’s instructions was “never have chemo on an empty stomach!”  Before leaving Patty and I held hands and prayed to God that he continue with us throughout this new journey, remove any cancer that may still be inside Patty and asked that Patty have minimal side effects.  We arrived at Scripps shortly before 1:00 and they brought us back right on time.  I think I described the chemo room in previous post, but I’ll do it again.  It’s a new room that’ s been open for close to two months now.  It’s located in the northwest corner of the clinic.  It’s set up similar to a ward with each chemo station divided from the other by a curtain.  There are windows all along the walls which makes it bright and upbeat.  Each station has a TV, bookcase, recliner (or bed if you prefer).  The areas are really comfortable.  Our chemo nurse was Margarita.  A woman close to our age.  I think we’ll have her throughout the regimen.  She was just awesome!  Very pleasant woman who has been in this business for many years.  She took a few minutes to explain the procedure and alleviate any anxiety Patty may have had, which wasn’t much.  She asked Patty if she was ready to which Patty said “yes!”  Patty sat in a comfy recliner and I sat in a pretty comfortable chair next to her.  She inserted the IV in her right arm and, as the say: “let the games begin!”  This was a three step process since there are three different chemicals/medications/poisons used.  The entire process took about 3 1/2 hours.  Patty and I talked, joked with the nurses and, quite honestly, had a pretty good time!  (you know us, we try to make the best out of any situation… even chemo!)  At one point Patty said she was starting to get a little headache so Margarita gave her some Tylenol which seemed to take care of the problem right away. 

Here’s Patty kick’in it in the chemo room!  See that smile… she actually had that smile throughout the procedure!

Speaking of attitude, as I mentioned earlier, Patty has an amazingly positive attitude right now.  Last night she told me: “right now the chemo is on a mission inside me, seeking out any cancer cells and killing them on the spot!” 

We left her chemo session around 4:45 p.m. and fought rush hour traffic on the way home.  Margarita told Patty to eat something lite for dinner.  We stopped at the store on the way home and Patty said she was in the mood for grilled cheese sandwiches and soup.  So… that’s just what the chef of the house prepared!  I haven’t had grilled cheese sandwiches and soup since I was a child and will admit, it was really good.  Patty ate well last night, which was a good sign.

Around 6:30 last night, Patty said she was starting to feel a little queasy.  She took an anti-nausea pill and the queasiness went away. 

Patty slept like a baby last night.  This was probably the best night of sleep she’s had in months!  She got up around 6:30 this morning feeling great!  No nausea, no nothing!  She took her daily medication with breakfast and as of right now, she’s really doing great!  Very upbeat!

This afternoon we go back to the doctor.  Patty gets a shot that will build up her immune system.  Margarita told us that she may have some flu-like symptoms as a result, achy bones etc, but it won’t last more than 24 hours. 

The interesting thing is how she’ll do the next few days.  Since there are some steroids in the chemo that gives Patty some energy.  After 48 hours, you “come down” off the steroids.  So fatigue may set in the next couple of days.  But hey , like Patty said, the chemo is on a mission to seek and kill any cancer cells inside her.  We can deal with some fatigue.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the shirt Patty wore yesterday says: “I may have breast cancer, but I refuse to let the cancer have me!”

And yes… in case you were wondering… there is a new “mirror message!”

“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!!!