Surgery Day!

Well… here we go again!  Surgery Day!  This is getting all too common lately.  I guess it could be worse as this is only Patty’s fourth cancer related surgery.  We should feel fortunate as there’s women out there who have had many more surgeries throughout their journey with breast cancer.

Patty’s surgery is scheduled for 1:30 this afternoon.  There’s always going to be some anxiety associated with surgery and this surgery is no different.  It’s pushing 11:00 a.m. right now and Patty’s trying to keep as busy as possible to pass the time.  Waiting is always the hardest part pre-surgery.  Her surgery last month was scheduled for 7:00 a.m. which was good.  The wait was still draining, but at least it was early in the morning.  This time you can literally hear the clock ticking away, second by second… tick, tick, tick!  I’m finding those “ticks” get louder as the waiting continues.

This surgery is scheduled to last between an hour and an hour and a half.  I’ve already prayed that things go as well or better than anticipated and that Patty’s recovery is quick with little or no pain!  Hey… it doesn’t hurt to ask!

I’ll keep you posted on how things turn out.

A year later…

Nearly one year ago when Patty had her first chemotherapy infusion.

Today is a landmark day for me… exactly one year ago I started writing this blog.  Over seven thousand hit’s later, it’s going strong.

Today’s personal achievement made me reflect over the past year… and it’s been quite a ride for the two of us.   Patty and I have experienced so many  ups and downs over the past year, but I realized that the “downs”  really make you appreciate the “ups” when they arrive!

At first, the ups and down seemed to change daily but it seemed like the “downs” were winning!  The “suspicious lump” (down), the actual diagnosis (down), the faulty PET Scan (down), the CAT Scan that disproved the cancer had matastasized (Huge UP), the mastectomy (down and an up), Patty’s quick recovery from the surgery (Huge up), Chemotherapy (down and up), Patty shaving her head before chemo got it (down)… I could go on and on, but the bottom line is… here it is over one year later and Patty is doing so well. (definitely the biggest UP of them all!!!)

Patty’s recovering from her reconstruction surgery.  Sure, she has some pain related to it, but she’s getting stronger everyday.  She does tire easily, but that’s expected.  Her sister Kathy is staying with us this week to help out.  Believe me, her being here is such a help!

So one year of blogging.  A year ago I didn’t even know what a blog was, let alone write one!   But over seven thousand hit from literally around the world is an accomplishment for me.  I really realize the power of the internet as I’m getting hits from Athens, London, Russia, Bucharest, Melbourne, Punjab, Canada to name a few and countless cities across the United States.  I’m hoping this blog is helping others who are newly diagnosed or the caregiver for someone with cancer.  It may not have all the answers, but it relays how Patty and I have dealt with the day to day trials of living with breast cancer.

I’m shooting for another year…  to be continued!

No news is good news… at least that’s what they say!

Here's Patty on a hike this past weekend in the mountains above Palm Springs. She and her sister Kathy had a quick "girls getaway."

As they say… no news is good news.  How that applies to Patty… life is good!  Her hair is pushing the one inch mark.  It’s funny, but her hair is really coming back curly!  I joked with her the other day, but looking at the top of her head reminds me of a weather broadcast showing the high and low pressure systems.  Her hair is swirling in every direction.  It’s really cute when she gels it up.  As a friend from church said yesterday… “It looks so European!”  That’s my wife, always on top of fashion!  She just made an appointment with the hair dresser to throw some color on it next month so she’s been busy researching cuts and colors for short hair.  She wants to do something “fun!”

Patty is still having the neuropathy issues in her hands and feet, but yesterday she told me that she thinks it’s getting a little better.  The doctor said the neuropathy would peak around 5 to six months after her final chemo, and if what she said was true, she may be over the hump and on the road to recovery in that department.  We have noticed that her immune system still is not at 100%.  She’s had several colds over the past few months which is unusual for her.  Patty rarely gets sick, but we notice now when she gets a cold, it hangs on longer than normal.  She has one right now that’s been hanging on for over two weeks.

Reconstruction is right around the corner.  Patty’s reconstruction surgeon dropped a bomb on her about a month ago.  He announced he’s retiring.  This was really disappointing news.  Patty had developed a very close relationship with him over the past 10 months.  He was involved in the mastectomy and has treated her regularly every couple of weeks since then.  Now he’s retiring.  Now what?  It turns out that one of his associates in his office is taking over his practice.  We had met her before and really liked her.  Patty had an appointment with her last week for an exam and to discuss her options going forward.  As before, we both felt very comfortable and have confidence in her. She agreed with the previous surgeon that Patty is completely healed from the mastectomy and Patty could go forward with the reconstruction process whenever she felt she was ready.  Believe me… Patty’s ready to get this party started!  The surgeon discussed several options for the reconstruction.  Without going into details, she recommended one process that Patty felt comfortable with.  Patty wants to wait until after we get back from Kauai to have the surgery.  So, it’s officially scheduled.  Patty will have the surgery on Friday, July 29th.  This is so ironic.  July 29th of last year was the date of her mastectomy!  Exactly one year to the day!  How crazy is that?  The surgeon told us the procedure will take about six hours.  Patty will be in the hospital for at least three days and then be able to come home.  She’ll be down for a good three weeks following the surgery then we can expect another 4 to 5 weeks after that until she’s completely recovered.  I joked with the surgeon when she talked about Patty’s recovery time frame and made a comment: “She’ll still be able to wash dishes, vacuum and do laundry right?”   She gave me a look then said if she had to, she’d write a note for Patty that said “no housework!”  Damn!  Well, I tried!  She’ll have more procedures after that, but hopefully no more surgeries.  The surgeon said when everything is said and done, she can expect the process to take about one year from start to finish.  Patty is a little nervous, but she really wants to have this done.   I’m behind her 100%!

Earlier I mentioned our trip to Kauai.  We’re so excited!  We’re going for 8 days and leave in less than a month!  We can’t wait!  Patty had told me while going through chemo, one thing (amongst many) that kept her focused was our trip to Kauai.  We’ve been there a couple of times before and don’t really need to do the sightseeing.  The title for this trip should be “Relax and Enjoy!”  That’s exactly what we plan on doing.  Those white sandy beaches are just what the doctor ordered for both of us.  We rented a condo on the north shore overlooking Hideaways Beach.  I have a feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time there.  While in Kauai, we’ll be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary as well as Patty’s 1 year “Cancerversary”.

Oh… I wanted to thank those people from El Dorado County again!  Lead by Becky the Queen Fundraiser, they raised another $238.00 for Patty’s Komen Walk in November!  Patty is now at $1,518.00 towards her goal of $2,300.00.  She’s 66%  of the way there!  Thank you so much!

Kauai in June!!’

Monday morning… It’s pushing 11:30 a.m. We’ve been at the hospital for about an hour now. We’re in the pre-op room. Right now Patty is wearing her paper gown hooked up to some kind of heater attached to the gown like an astronaut pre-orbit suit! It’s keeping her nice and warm! They just took all her vitals and everything is great! Blood pressure is low… Temp is normal and oxygen level is 100%! She did tell me earlier that she was feeling pretty weak this morning from the chemo.

Patty is pretty scared this morning! I’m doing what I can to keep her mind occupied but she still gets weepy at times. I have to say that i married on tough woman! She allowed to be frightened at times! We’ll get through this today and keep going forward. I told her to just remember… three more chemo infusions to go… two grandchildren and one more on its way… one day at a time… and a partridge in a pear tree!!! (i throw things in like that to test if she’s listening… she generally tunes me out!). The good news is that they moved her surgery up an hour, from 1:00 p.m. to noon! It’ll last about an hour… Recovery for an hour… Then we ho home. Hopefully we’ll be home around 4 or so.

This round of chemo was pretty rough on Patty. Saturday being the hardest day! It really took her for a loop! She was so fatigued and weak… she actually passed out! That was pretty scary for both of us!!! I learned I need to really keep a closer eye on her on those days!

We’ve decided that when all is said and done, we’re going back to Kauai for a couple weeks!! Probably in June. I think we’ve earned it!

Well, she’s going to be going into surgery soon. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.

Ok… it’s now a little after 5:00 p.m.  It turned out that moving the surgery up an hour didn’t work!  The surgeon was running behind so they didn’t get Patty in until just before 1:00 p.m.  I hung out in the waiting room and the surgeon came out about 1:45 p.m. and said “She did great!  Everything went as planned!”  That was good news.  I hate waiting while I know my wife is in the other room, sedated, with a surgeon digging around inside her!  It always seems like the minutes go by like hours!  But, this was quick.  The surgeon left and I waited in the room some more.  A nurse came and got me around 2:30 p.m.  I went into the recovery room and there she was… bright eyed and bushy tailed!  You’d never know she just had surgery!  She was all smiles (I think that was because she was relieved the procedure was over!)  She looked at me and said she felt great and was ready to go home!  Wow!  What a shocker.  I expected to find my wife all grogged out and on the verge of throwing up!  But, nope!  She was feeling good!  She got dressed and we were home by 3:00 p..m.  I wish all surgeries went like this.  She’s now plopped on the couch drinking a berry smoothie talking to her sister, Kathy, on the phone.  She’s back to normal!

Ok… now that that’s over, we can get back to the “fight!”

She had the surgery!

Look at that girl!  The love of my life!  Who would ever think that something like cancer would have attacked her.  Like I said in an earlier post… breast cancer can pick anyone as their victim!

OK… so, the surgery was scheduled and we counted down the days until it would happen!  I just kept thinking… “She’s being treated for cure!!!”  That sounded so much better than the earlier prognosis!  Patty had a few meltdown’s on the days before the surgery… she’s still terrified and she’s also doing the “what if’s?”  “What if…. it spread?  What if… they find it’s in the lymph nodes?”  Hey, I don’t blam her for thinking about those things.  (OK… I’ll admit, those “what if’s” crossed my minds also!) 

So the day finally came… Thursday, July 29th!  The day the cancer comes out and the cure begins!  Patty slept really well the night before!  I was surprised but she really did.  I was the one who woke up at midnight thinking it was time to get up.  I also woke up at 4 a.m. and layed there in the dark and couldn’t get back to sleep.  So I got up at 4:30 a.m. and started my day.  Patty actually got up around 7 a.m.  We had to be at the hospital at 9 a.m. and surgery was scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

We got to the hospital a little before 9:00 a.m.  They took us into a “pre-op” room shortly thereafter.  The room was really small, but the setup is great.  It’s just a room to hang out in before surgery.  They wanted Patty there early so they could inject some type of radioactive dye into her breast that would allow the surgeon to see exactly where the cancer was located and be assured she got it all out!  (that’s pretty important!)  Patty had the injection around 10 a.m. which took maybe 20 minutes.  She came back in the pre-op room and we just hung out waiting for surgery time.  Nicole (Patty’s daughter) showed up around 10:30 a.m. and helped me kill time and keep Patty busy until surgery time.  I could feel the anxiety in the room watching the clock tick, tick, tick to 12:30.  I know Nicole felt it also but she was a trooper and wanted to keep her mother’s mind off of things so she (who is 7 months pregnant) told us stories about her birthing class and how she was worried about her maternal instincts kicking in!  She had us laughing about  how her gag reflex would most likely kick in when her baby has “ugly/stinky poo!”  Well, it turned out that the surgeon was at another clinic that morning and was running late!  The scheduled 12:30 surgery was more like 1:15!  But we patiently waited.  She showed up a little after 1:00 p.m.  She was just her happy self as usual!  She was just what Patty needed to see.  I could see her anxiety level drop the second the doctor walked in.  So, it was time to go… I gave Patty a kiss and she walked off with the doctor.  Before she left, the surgeon told me that her part of the procedure would take an hour to and hour and a half to complete then the reconstruction surgeon would come in and that would take another hour and a half.  She said she’d meet me in the waiting room.  So I walked over to the waiting area and did what I was supposed to do… wait!  Damn, that seems like all we’ve done is wait.  But what’s another three hours after the last three months?  My sister, her husband and son came to wait with me, so I wasn’t alone.  But when talking to them, my mind was in the surgery room wondering how things were going.  An hour past… no doctor.  An hour and a half passed… still no doctor.  Ok, so my mind was starting to play games with me… a little.  Of course I was making excused in my head why the surgeon wasn’t out yet.  Now two hours had passed… no doctor.  Ok, I’m really starting to freak out.  I’m normally not like that… but this was my wife, my best friend in the surgery room having a mastectomy!  I wasn’t feeling good about this.  I tried having a “normal” conversation with my sister, but looking back right now… I have no idea what I talked to them about.  About two and a half hours into the surgery, the surgeon came walking down the hallway.  She looked at me and apologized for the time but she said she was stuck waiting for the biopsy results.  She said the surgery went great… they did find one lymph node that had, as she said, “a little cancer” in it.  But the one next to it tested negative.   She also said they biopsied 14 other lymph nodes and wouldn’t have the results for at least another 5 days or so.  Whatever the results of the biopsy are just tell them what treatment Patty will need.  She did say she wouldn’t be surprised if Patty will have to go through chemo or radiation or both.  It was kind of a stupid question I asked, but I asked:  “Will Patty be alright?”  She smiled at me and said: “Patty will be fine.”

“Treating for cure” means more doctor appointments!

Things have been moving so fast since the doctors are now “Treating for Cure!”  We met with two more incredible doctors over the past two weeks!  First was with the surgeon who will remove the cancer. 

Patty and I had an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday, July 21st.  She is the kind of woman that you just feel comfortable with the moment you meet her.  She’s probably around her 40’s but has a bio that’s a mile long.  She has a great bedside manner and had Patty laughing harder than I’ve seen her laugh since this whole nightmare started!  She explained that she could “try” to do a lumpectomy but felt a mastectomy would be best to minimize reoccurrence.  Patty agreed with her suggestion.  She also suggested that we start the breast reconstruction at the same time as the surgery.  The doctor explained that once she removed the breast she would biopsy some of the lymph nodes in her breast which would determine what type of post operative treatment she would need… chemo… radiation… hormone therapy or a combination of treatments.  She said they’ll biopsy two or three lymph nodes and if they come back positive for cancer they’ll keep biopsying them until they find some that are clear.  Once they find the clear ones, they stop.  Hey, she’s the doctor.  At the end of the appointment, she said if everything works out, she could have the surgery by the end of the following week!  She obviously knew the urgency of this situation we were in, which the doctors at the other hospital failed to see!    (Hmmm.. do I sound bitter?)  It was close to noon and she said: “let me see if I can get a hold of the the reconstruction surgeon and see if he can see you.”  She left the room and came back a couple minutes later saying: “he’s just eating his lunch and I told him to put his lunch down and see you.  So he’s waiting for you right now!”  We thanked her and went downstairs to the reconstruction doctors office.  There he was, standing outside in the reception area waiting for us.  He took us in and conducted an exam with Patty.  He then sat us down and explained how the reconstruction procedure would work.  He was very thorough and made us feel very comfortable.  He then introduced us to his office manager who put things in motion for the surgery.  She coordinated both doctors schedules and whamo… a surgery date of July 29th!  We actually had a surgery date!  You don’t know how much we’ve wanted this date!