“I could have sworn…”

Here's Patty and Avery at the Susan Komen salute to breast cancer survivors at Petco Park.

“I could have sworn my lymph nodes were swollen!”  That was Patty’s comment as we left her oncologist’s office this morning.  (by the way, have I ever told you that this woman just kills me!)

Patty had her six month follow-up with her oncologist this morning.  Needless to say, the past 48 hours have been filled with Patty’s anxiety of this pending appointment.  48 hours ago wasn’t too bad but as the appointment grew closer, so did her anxiety.  I think this is a normal reaction of anyone who has been through countless doctor appointments, tests, poking and prodding here and there and learning they’ve been diagnosed with a life threatening disease.  I’m sure this anxiety will be a precursor to every appointment from now forward.

Bottom line to today’s appointment… drum roll please… she’s doing great.  The oncologist is very pleased with how Patty is doing and how she looks.  The oncologist even said that Patty “looks healthy!”  What a good feeling.

Poor Patty… I know she agonized over this appointment and was certain that the cancer had returned.  Not that she’s been experiencing any symptoms or anything like that, it’s just the games that the mind plays.  The next appointment is in July with the pulmonary doctor to do a chest x-ray.  I know we’ll go through more anxiety, but you know what?  Patty is a very strong woman who will ace that test with flying colors!

Tomorrow is a big day for Patty.  She is meeting with her hair stylist to put some color on her grey hair.  She’s really excited.  I’ll post a picture for you tomorrow afternoon!

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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!

No-Mo-chemo!

She made it!!!  Yes, she made it!!!  December 14th… the day we’ve been looking forward to for what seemed like an eternity, finally came!  Patty’s 6th and final chemo infusion!  What a big day for Patty!

Patty told me she was a little nervous this time around.  Nervous about how the side effects were going to be.  We had both been fighting colds the past week… hey, the family that has colds together… (can’t think of an appropriate ending for that phrase right now.)  We were both a little concerned that her cold could interfere with this last infusion.  We met with our Oncologist at 9:30 a.m. and everything from her blood work looked great!  She had the green light for this last treatment.  Everyone in the Oncologist’s office were so excited that this was Patty’s last treatment!

The infusion was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. and everything went smooth as possible.  You could tell that Margarita, our oncology nurse, was happy for Patty but also sad in the same sense that this was the end of our dealing with her.  We’re hoping to stay connected with her in the future! 

I couldn’t let this day go by without some recognition.  Her last chemo was just too big to let slip through the cracks!  So, over the past week or so, I’ve been sending emails and calling friends and family to come over and help celebrate this big day.  Nicole helped me arrange a surprise party for Patty.  nothing too big, but just close friends and family.  Like I said, Patty’s infusion started on time.  I waited about 15 minutes then made up some lame excuse to leave for a short while.  (I said I had to return a cable box to the company before we got charged for it.)  So I flew home.  I stopped by Party Plus and picked up some pink balloons and pink streamers etc.  Once home I zoomed around decorating the condo.  I should have taken a picture of it, it turned out pretty good!  I then zoomed back to the hospital within a short time.  (Wow… a lot of zooming going on!)  Patty’s treatment ended around 1:30.  I had told everyone to be at our house by 1:45.  It was great!  We got home around 2:00.  Patty had no clue that our friends and family were inside.  I opened the door… I had a “Congratulations” sign just inside with balloons around it.  Patty saw the sign and said “Oh how sweet!”  then everyone jumped from their hiding place yelling “Surprise!!!”  It was awesome.  Patty was very touched that everyone came to congratulate her!  She loved it.  We had 14 people crammed into our little place… it was perfect!

So, she made it!  No more chemo!  What a milestone and this woman of mine did such a great job going through it.  I’m so proud of her!   We’re going to have a challenge from the side effects for the next two weeks or so.  Then after that… she’ll get stronger and stronger.  Her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows will begin to grow back.  Yesterday represented a day that marked the beginning of our new life!  We’re both excited to bring in 2011 because it’s going to be such a great new year for us! 

This morning when I left for work, Patty was still in bed.  I leaned over to give her a kiss and she was crying.  I asked if those were good tears or bad tears.  She said they were good tears!  Good tears because she’s done with her treatments and has so much to look forward to in the future!!!

  Another “Mirror Message.”  It’s a little hard to read but it says:

                “You did it!”

           “No-Mo-Chemo!”

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!)

It’s been a week… sorry

Sorry I haven’t blogged anything in the past few days, but this has been a very quiet and uneventful week!  Uneventful is a good thing!  Patty has been feeling great.  She still tires easily, but overall she’s fairly normal (whatever that means!). 

We did have an appointment this past Thursday with the Radiation Oncologist to determine if Patty would need radiation after finishing chemo.  It was a very in-depth discussion with the oncologist and after hearing every possible scenario and statistics she said “my  personal opinion… radiation won’t make a big difference, maybe 1 or 2 percent, in the overall prognosis.  But, it’s your decision.”  So we have a few months to think about and talk to other doctors about it, then make a decision.  The doctor said:  “Patty, by the time you finish chemo, you may not want to undergo any further treatment!?  Like I said, we’ll give this some serious thought in the next few months to come.

Yesterday, my son Steven and I did a marathon run up to northern California and back!  When we moved back to San Diego earlier in the year, it was just easier to put whatever we needed to store in storage in Placerville and bring everything else down here.  The one thing Patty really misses is our double recliner.  The couch and loveseat we have down here just isn’t cutting it when she’s having her “down days” as a result of the chemo.  So Steven and I flew up to Sacramento yesterday at 6:30 a.m., rented a 22 ft truck and were at the storage place by 10:30 a.m.  We had the truck loaded and were on the road by 1:00 p.m.  We made it home by 10:30 p.m.!  I can’t believe we traveled over 1100 miles in one day!    Today we’re going to unload the truck into the new storage place and switch out the furniture in the condo.  It’ll be another long day, but Patty will be very comfortable!

That’s about it.  Not much more to report.  Patty has her 2nd chemo on Tuesday and we get to start the routine again.  We’ve heard people react differently to each individual chemo infusion.  A friend who’s going through her 2nd round of chemo recently told Patty that her first infusion was the worst.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’ll keep you posted..

Bring on the chemo!

We met with the oncologist this afternoon.  As with the other doctors at Scripps, we have 110% confidence in her!  From our first meeting, you could tell she was a fighter!  She was very matter of fact with us.  “Due to the aggressiveness of the tumor and the fact it did spread to one lymph node, I want to be aggressive with this and treat it with chemo!”  You know what?  We expected this would be the treatment so there were really no surprises when she made the announcement.  I know my wife and I can honestly say that Patty is truly ready for this fight, mentally as well as physically!  She’s really ok with chemo.  Sure, there’s going to be some side-effects… but she’s ready to take them on!  Just like the t-shirt I had gotten her that reads:  “Hey Cancer!  You picked the wrong broad!”  Cancer really did! 

So… unfortunately Patty has two more “tests” to do before the chemo begins.  A bone scan and some type of heart scan.  I think having the “tests” is bothering her more than the chemo.  But, what can one do?  That just means two more tests and “waiting” for the results!  Waiting is never fun!

Patty will have her first treatment on Tuesday, August 31st.  She’ll have a total of six treatments, three weeks apart.  If everything goes well, which it should, her last treatment will be on her daughter, Nicole’s, birthday on January 4th.  (notice I didn’t say how old Nicole will be!)

Now we get to go wig shopping… hat shopping and scarf shopping!  (God, the things I do for my wife!)  Gotta love her!!!

Good appointment today!

This afternoon’s appointment was with the Nurse Practitioner for our surgeon.  Another woman we just love!  They were running about an hour behind so we sat in the waiting room “people watching.”  You really know that you’ve been going to the doctor way too much when the employees start knowing who you are!!!

Two good things came out of today’s appointment. #1:  There is NO cancer in Patty!!!  All of the cancer has been removed!  #2:  Patty will never have to have a mammogram on her left breast for the rest of her life! 

The Nurse Practitioner was amazed at how well the first step in the reconstruction was looking.  She said: “Oh Patty… this looks great!  You’re going to be very happy when it’s done!”  Then she made a comment about what great work the reconstruction doctor does and how she was thinking of having a “lift!”  (Way too much information for me!) 

She did say that most likely Patty will need to go through chemo since there was a lymph node involved, but then again, that will be the call of the oncologist.  So, the next appointment is with the oncologist on Wednesday afternoon.