Happy New Year!!!

Well, another year has passed and Patty and I are about as healthy as we can be! Patty got some amazing news just a week ago…

December 14, 2015 was Patty’s 5 year anniversary from her last Chemo. Five years! My how the time flies by. She just had an appointment with her Oncologist for her final check-up of the year. She has been seeing her every six months for the past couple of years. This was a big one for her since hitting the five-year mark post chemo gives her a greater chance of survival and being cancer free for many years to come. In addition, she was taking the medication Arimidex which lowers estrogen levels in post-menopausal women, which may slow the growth of certain types of breast tumors that need estrogen to grow in the body. Patty experienced a number of side effects to the medication such as tingling of the extremities, joint pain and, one of my personal favorites… hot flashes! Not just one or two a day, but we’re talking hot flashes anytime of the day, night or morning! I’ve been wanting to get her a super hero costume with a cape and call her The Hot Flash! Poor Patty… she is the only woman I’ve known that will turn the air conditioner on in the car when it’s 32 degrees outside! If things turned out well with her appointment there was a big hope that the doctor would take her off the Arimidex! So this was a big appointment for her… and us. I generally go to every appointment with her,but unfortunately she had to do this one on her own as I had “things” to deal with at work. As usual, about a week before her appointment Mr. Elephant in the room dropped by for his semi-annual visit as I could see patty starting to withdraw a little. If you look back in past posts I’ve described how she gets about a week before any appointment so I go into my routine of trying to keep her mind off of things… I go into “stupid mode!” I joke… laugh… just try to keep her entertained. It never works but why not try.

Her appointment with the Oncologist was December 23rd at 2:00 p.m. She gave blood samples the day before and had a bone density scan. So, December 23rd finally arrived and fortunately Patty was really busy with work so that kind of kept her mind off of things… Patty went to her appointment as scheduled, apprehensive as to what news the doctor would have for her…

December 23rd at about 2:30 my phone rang. I saw it was Patty when I answered it… Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hi Honey… How’d it go???
Patty: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “I’m taking it that it went well?”
Patty: “The doctor said I graduated!!! Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “I’m so happy!!!”
Patty: “No more Arimidex! Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”
Me: “That’s great!
Patty: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”

That’s pretty much how it went! Not recommended, but she was driving and doing her happy dance at the same time in the car!

Yep… the doctor gave her a clean bill of health! She graduated! The doctor also took her off the Arimidex! No more hot flashes! No more air conditioner in the car when it’s freezing outside! No more needing to wear a wetsuit to bed! I know it all sounds selfish of me, but all I can say is: “Yippee! Yahoo! Yippie! Wooo Hoo! Yea!!! Yippa Screma Dema!!!”

We hope 2016 brings everything good to you!

Post surgery update

Wow!  What a day yesterday was!

We got to the hospital around 12:15 for the 1:30 surgery.  Patty was feeling pretty anxious on the drive which was evident by not one word being said.  I tried to get her to talk, but she just wasn’t in the mood.  I totally understand and would probably be the same if it were me!  We checked in with the admitting person in the surgical center and had a short wait before they called her back to get into the “gown”.  After seeing Patty in her “gown” I realized that someone could make a killing in the hospital gown business if they designed one that actually looked good!  But, a green gown with the hospital issue purple socks just wasn’t doing it for me.  Anyway, back to yesterday.  We had a good hour to kill in the pre-surgery room waiting for 1:30.  Tick……….. Tick…………. Tick!  Time dragged.  Finally the anesthesiologist came in.  What a nice man!  Very thorough in explaining his role during the surgery.  His demeanor was very calming to Patty.  The surgical nurse came in as the anesthesiologist left.  She also had this calming effect on Patty.  Wow!  Two for two!  As she left, Patty’s surgeon came in.  Three for three!  It was a good start to surgery.  The surgeon told me she’d come into the waiting room when she was finished and anticipated the surgery to go between and hour and an hour and a half.   They were ready!  I gave Patty a kiss and off she went, looking pretty hip, I must say, in her hospital gown!  They took Patty back for surgery around 1:40.

I made a quick run to the grocery store to pick up things for Patty’s dinner.  Coming out of surgery, I figured since Patty hadn’t eaten since 7:00 the previous night, she would like something tasty but not spicy.  So… grill cheese sandwiches and tomato soup was the menu.  I got back to the hospital around 2:30.  I guessed they’d finish with the surgery around 3:30.  So, there I sat in the waiting room with a pile of Sunset magazines they provided.  I read through about four of them and looked at the clock… 3:35 p.m.  Ahh, they should be finishing up anytime.  Five minutes passed and…  and… and… the power went out!  Thank goodness I don’t freak too easily, but knowing my wife was in surgery and now no power?  I do know that hospitals have emergency power for just this reason so I was pretty calm, but still!  The surgery nurse came out to see me at 3:55 p.m.  She said she just wanted to ease my mind that everything was fine, the had backup power, and they’d be finishing up with Patty’s surgery in 10 to 15 minutes.  Phew!  The surgeon came out at 4:05 saying she was done and Patty did great!  She said she was able to make the necessary repairs, nip and tuck here and there, and was able to put a new implant in which was the same size as the other breast!  That’s great news!  That means no more surgeries… hopefully.

I’d never seen Patty, or anyone for that fact, minutes after surgery.  Wow… Patty talked to me with no clue what she was saying or to whom she was saying it to!  Wow!  He first thing out of her mouth, in a very slurred speech, was:  “God was with me the whole time!”  Patty came “out of the influence” within a half hour and was ready to go home and eat!  (That’s a good sign)

It seemed like everyone wanted to leave the hospital at the same time we were leaving.  The four story parking structure was backed up for four floor!  It dawned on me since the power was out the signal lights on the street weren’t working!  Needless to say, our fifteen minute drive home was much much longer!  I listened to the car radio and learned that the entire San Diego County was without power and San Diego Gas & Electric had no idea what caused the blackout, where the outage initiated and when power would be restored.  Of all days for the power to be out… it’s 99 degrees outside… my wife just had surgery…. no power means no air conditioner….  and we have an electric stove!  Things weren’t looking all that good for the night.  But, with some ingenuity, we’d make it work.

Patty was in a lot of pain as we drove home but I had her take more meds when we arrived at our house.  They kicked in around 6:30 p.m. and she was fine.  I’ve learned that it’s all about pain management!

Last night was kind of nice.  We had candlelight.  I literally made grilled cheese sandwiches on the grill!  (by the way, I’ve never made them that way before and I’ll never do them any other way in the future!)  I have a battery-powered radio so we tuned into a station that was giving updates on the outage.  We had a good night.  Patty went to bed around 8:30 and I followed around 10:30.  No power when I went to bed but it was restored at 4:00 a.m.

Patty woke up this morning around 6 a.m.  She was in a great mood and wanted to talk talk talk!  Me?  I had my head buried in a pillow trying to pretend I was sound asleep.  Meanwhile Mrs. Gabby started carrying on about everything under the sun.  I had to give up on sleep when I realized that she had pretty much slept most of the day before and she was done with sleep.  She did say one thing that caught my attention.  She said:  “Today is the first day in I can’t remember how long that I feel positive!  Positive about going forward.” You don’t know how glad I was to hear her make that statement!

So, bottom line… Patty is doing great (as long as she takes her pain meds)  We admired her new breast this morning when she took a shower.  Wow!  It’s taking shape and now they’re both the same size!  I’m pretty impressed!


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.

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!!!

One step forward… two steps back!

As Benjamin Franklin said:   “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”  Just when I’m getting comfortable with where Patty is in her recovery and certain that things are going great… something happens.  Another challenge!  Yesterday was no different!  I have to say this breast cancer ride with Patty has been just that!  A ride! 

Patty has been doing so well.  Everyday she makes progress in her recovery.  There are actually short times in my day when I look at her and forget what she’s been through… but then reality always brings it back.  She’s been through so much over the past 17 months… the early mis-diagnosis; the mastectomy; chemotherapy; hair loss; another surgery due to problems during early reconstruction; fainting spells; loss of appetite; reconstruction surgery… etc.  There were times early on in her diagnosis when I really didn’t know if she’d be with us 17 months later.  But here she is!  And I need to keep that in perspective!

 As you’re aware, Patty had her reconstruction surgery one month ago.  It was a long surgery and somewhat painful recovery.  She was strong and a trooper and hung in there and did what she needed to do with little complaint.  Two weeks ago the doctor started adding saline to her implant.  Patty was so happy and excited about the whole process.  For a woman, losing a breast is obviously very difficult.  Suddenly seeing a breast again after having the reconstruction surgery was an amazing thing for Patty.  

 Patty had an appointment with the doctor yesterday to have more saline added to her implant.  (Here’s where the title of this blog applies!)  Long story short, there is a one-way valve on her implant where the doctor inserts a needle to add the saline.  Apparently the implant had moved/shifted to a point where the doctor was not able to locate the valve!  So… what does this mean?  It means Patty is scheduled for an ultrasound this afternoon where the doctor will try to locate the valve.  Once located… Patty will have a “procedure” (which is another word for surgery) to move the implant back to where it’s supposed to be, to be able to continue to add saline.  

 Needless to say, Patty is extremely frustrated right now!  I don’t blame her.  I’ll admit, I’m frustrated also.  Patty has been going through this battle for 17 months now!  She’s tired of not feeling well all the time.  I know her… she’s strong and strong-willed!  She’ll get through this “bump.”  She will!  But I can’t blame her frustration.  

 We don’t know if she’ll have the “procedure” today or if it will be scheduled for a future date.  But for now… One step forward, two steps back!

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!

Reconstruction surgery was a success!!!

Patty at 5:30 this morning wearing the latest in hospital fashion!

7:31 p.m. – I just walked in the house after a long day at the hospital!  I figured the first thing I needed to do when I got home was let everyone know how today went.

Well… we got up at 4 a.m.   No… change that!  I got up at 4 a.m. and Patty rolled out of bed around 4:25.  OK… that’s more accurate!  We were out the door about 4:50 a.m. and at  the hospital around 5:20.  Patty checked-in and they took us back into the prep room shortly thereafter.  The last few of days I could see Patty was experiencing some anxiety over the surgery.  As I think I said in yesterdays post… “I don’t blame her”.  This is pretty major surgery!  Last night she was getting a little weepy over not being able to care for Avery for the next 8 weeks as well as being pretty limited with what she’ll be able to physically do.  Bottom line, she was just frightened.  But this morning, she was completely different.  She was a little tentative, but she was ready to take this next step head on!  She had a great attitude and was laughing and smiling.

The staff at Scripps Green was amazing and really kept Patty at ease.  We met with the surgery nurse and the anesthesiologist around 6:30 and were pretty much ready to go for the 7:00 a.m. surgery.  The only person missing was the reconstruction surgeon!  Waiting is always hard in these circumstances.  You know how that goes… you’re there and just want to get this over-with!  7 a.m. rolled around and no surgeon… 7:20… no surgeon.  Now I think the waiting was getting to Patty as she told me that she was starting to get a little scared.  7:30… no surgeon.  Finally around 7:40 a.m. the surgeon waltzed in.  Thank God!  I could see the tension leave Patty’s body when she walked in.  The surgeon marked Patty up with a purple marker to indicate to her where she’d be making the incisions for the procedure.  She spoke with us for a few minutes and said she was ready to go and she’d find me in the waiting room when she was done.  She said the procedure will take around 4 1/2 to 6 hours.  Phew… I knew it’d be a long morning.  She left and within a minute another nurse came in and walked off with Patty.

I went over to the cafeteria and got breakfast.  I looked at my watch and saw it was only 8 a.m.  I thought “Oh man… Patty won’t be out until probably 1 or 2 o’clock.  So I had breakfast, read the paper, read a few chapters in a book I’m reading, watched people come in and out of the waiting room (by the way, waiting rooms are a great place to people watch!) and watched a little TV.  I noticed it was around noon and I was now reading some pamphlet on hospital services (as I’ve now read everything else) when the surgeon came in.  I glanced up and was surprised to see her.  I said: “Are you already done?”  She replied that she was and continued by saying that everything went great!  She had a big smile on her face and said it was a perfect surgery… no issues, no problems, no nothing!  Everything went as planned.  In fact she said: “I think this is one of the best one’s I’ve ever done!”  She said Patty did great and was awake in the recovery room!  Wow!  Not even four hours!  That was awesome!  I wasn’t able to see Patty in the recovery room, but that was ok.  I met up with her once she was transferred to her room about an hour later.

I have to say, Patty looks great!  So far she’s experiencing little pain.  She not drugged up other than taking a Vicodin every few hours.  She is doing so well!  I’m so proud of her!  She’s a stud!  Hopefully she’ll be doing just as well, or better, tomorrow.

Patty has to stay in the hospital until at least Monday.  Quite honestly, she’s was ready to come home tonight!  But, we have to do what the doctor tells her to do.

I could tell Patty was feeling pretty good this evening when she asked: “Are you going to make a dump run this weekend?”