Note: You will want to mute the music below prior to watching the videos.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bigger & Bigger & Bigger

In case your wondering, everything is going great. There hasn't been a lot to report during the past couple of days. However, today I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Geter, and now I have some things to report. First of all, I DID NOT get my drains out today. They are still draining more fluid than what they need to be in order to be removed. I am now holding out for Friday. Hopefully, they will be removed then. Dr. Geter made the comment that he would hate to remove them just to have to put them back in if necessary. I agreed with that, so the drains stayed in place and will hopefully be out on Friday. I think having the drains removed would bring a lot of relief so please pray that this would be possible. In addition to having my drains checked, I had my first expansion today. That has got to be the strangest procedure I have ever had done..........besides having my breast removed! I went into Dr. Geter's office today with very small breast, probably an A cup, and walked out a B cup. Literally, a 5 minute transformation. Ryan was standing there with his mouth hanging open as he watched my breasts grow right in front of his eyes.

Now, for those of you wondering, the actual procedure was not that uncomfortable. However, now that it has been about 5 hours, I am beginning to feel the pain of it all. Dr. Geter assured me that I would only have some discomfort for about 24 hours. I am holding him to his word. In addition to hopefully having my drains taken out on Friday, I will be expanded again. The idea is to expand me to a size that I am comfortable with. Once the right size is achieved, I will be expanded just a little more. At the rate I am going....or growing....I predict it will take only a few more expansions before I am happy with my size. The worse part about the entire process is that the expanders are rock hard. There is no give, whatsoever. So, until I have my final implants, I will have to get used to having what feels like cannonballs for breasts. I guess that's better than nothing!

Praise God for doctors like Dr. Geter who are able to put a person back together again. Dr. Geter has helped me feel better about myself and my future. Reconstruction is truly a journey within itself!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day By Day

I am pleased to report that the past three days have been terrific! Yesterday was a great day! I had enough energy to do three loads of laundry and take Charley outside to play in the sprinkler. God is so good! Besides these stinkin' drains, I am feeling great! I spoke with my oncologist yesterday and we have my first chemo treatment set up for August 11Th. That is just two weeks from this coming Monday. I am hoping to be fully expanded by that time so that chemo can go on as scheduled. If all goes as planned, my last chemo treatment would be November 24Th allowing enough time for my permanent implants to be put in place before the end of the year. It really is cutting it close, but I continue to be faithful that God will allow everything to work out in His perfect timing.

My mom went to visit her oncologist today for her yearly check-up. While at her appointment, she picked up all of her records from when she had cancer. On August 17Th, 1989, my mom had her first chemotherapy treatment. That is almost 19 years to the day that I will begin chemo. I'm sure my mom never thought that 19 years down the road she would be witnessing her daughter go through the same thing. I pray that 19 years from today there will be a cure and chemotherapy will be a thing of the past.

I know this journey with breast cancer is something that God is using in my life for His purpose. I'm not clear exactly sure how He plans to use me, but I would ask that you would all pray that He guide me in a direction that is glorifying and honoring to Him. I know this is just the beginning of something great for my life and my family. I just have to sit, wait, and listen as the Lord prepares me for whatever it is that I am supposed to do.

Finally, I would like to mention that I over the past week I have received some wonderful meals. Ryan and I feel so blessed to have had meals provided for us. Thank you Hilary for being the meal coordinator. This afternoon I see my surgeon for a post-op check-up. Hopefully, he will think everything looks great! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today Is A Better Day

Wow. What a difference a day makes! This is the first day I have actually felt pretty close to normal....with the exception of having drains and no breast. OK, I guess I should quit saying that I don't have breast. The plastic surgeon was kind enough to expand me to a pretty decent size. I woke up having more than what I expected. Now I just have to focus on getting them the right size and looking equal to one another. I will be glad when the expanding process is over because it is really uncomfortable, especially since the expander's are under my breast muscle. I just keep telling myself that this time next year (hopefully this time in six months) this journey will be behind me and I can look forward to a living the rest of my life cancer free.

A couple of days ago I did a post requesting that you all pray for some very specific things. Well, I knew I could count on you because like always, your prayers worked. Today, I was actually able to wash my greasy hair, dry it, and yes girls...even straighten it with my best friend, Chi. And, on top of that, I applied my make-up. I know.....shocking! Please keep you prayers coming! If all continues to go well today, Ryan and I are planning on going to the Wednesday night prayer service at church. I want nothing more than to get out of this house and go and praise God for all that He has done for me.

I love what God is doing in my life. I pray everyday that He would continue to use me, strengthen me, and show me the true meaning of life! Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Drive Through Mastectomy's

Well, I am happy to report that today is a better day, not by much, but it is a better day. I did see my plastic surgeon today just to make sure I am healing like I should and that my drains "working appropriately." He reassured me that everything is going just as it should. That was good to hear. We are still set to have the drains removed next Tuesday. I am looking foward to that!

Now, to the real purpose of this post. My mom sent my an email last night that I felt was absolutely necessary to share with everyone who reads my blog. Please know that this is not an email that was forward to me. Rather, it depicts the difference between health care 20 years ago, when my mom had cancer, and health care now. If your reading this, then you probably know someone, besides myself, that has been affected by breast cancer. This is your chance to do something to help those that you know and love. Please read the following email and check out the links. You can make a difference!

This was written to me from my mom. Thanks Mom!

Hello..normally, I delete any forwarded emails with "stories" or "requests" to respond or forward to "10 of your friends", however, after your last post, perhaps this is the time to send this out to the many readers of your breast cancer blog. Thankfully, you have a wonderful husband and supportive family to assist in your recovery.

Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, within six months. I had two mastectomies, six months apart. After each surgery, I was kept in the hospital for a minimum of 7 days. I needed every day! This gave me time to recover my strength, eat correctly, get all of my "systems" going again, and have drains removed before going home to my family. I also was able to meet with support volunteers for emotional support and physical therapy (Reach to Recovery Volunteers).

A lot has changed in twenty years mostly for the good, but not always! While most
mastectomies today are not as radical and recovery is quicker, it is still a major surgery with an extended recovery time. Not only that, the majority of women going through this are older women, many with no husbands or assistance at home. I have met countless women who are on their own, OR may have husbands that are not able to
support them for valid reasons or selfish reasons. Regardless, the thought of
having a mastectomy in the morning and going home that evening OR the next day is
ridiculous! This is the norm today!

Not only are women having to deal with the emotional trauma of having cancer surgery
and losing a breast, they are also having to be their own nurses: milk and empty surgical drains, control their own pain medication, watch for infection, and wonder if they need to call the doctor when something unexplained happens, basically recovering on their own.

Below are two links: they are safe!

The first is a link explaining the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, which, has no surprise, languished in Congress for years. There is a letter on this link dated 2001 from the AMA endorsing this legislation. Thanks to the representative who keeps
sponsoring this bill. Please read about it!

The second is a link to a petition through the Lifetime Network to make our voices
heard. While the petition is a great idea, direct contact with our own representatives who want our votes, is a better way to get the message across. As long as we continue to accept "blanket" medical decisions rather than personalized medicine, we will lose more and more control. I say put the decisions back into the hands of the doctors and patients!

To the many readers, this may someday effect you!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hard Days Behind Me with More Ahead

Well, the past few days have not been easy. It is so hard to for me to describe the pain but the best way I know how is for you to imagine what it feels like to have 50 pounds of pressure on your chest. You can't sit up, you can't lay down, you can only sleep on your back. There is no comfortable position. On top of that, you have a drain coming out of each of your sides that sucks fluid from your body and disposes of it in what looks like little plastic grenades that are pinned to the inside of your shirt or gown. These must be emptied twice a day...thank you Ryan. You can't shower and are barely able to bathe. You can't shave your armpits and washing your hair is something that you only do when it starts looking really greasy. And on top of all this, the pain medicine that you are taking causes constipation. Welcome to my world.

I have been feeling really down the past couple of days and have been waiting to post a blog until I was feeling better. However, I'm not sure when that will be. Because I know that so many of you are checking the blog religiously, I decided to go ahead and do a post and let you know how things are really going. I guess every blog can't be rosy posy. Also, if you all are checking the blog, then I know I can rely on you to pray. So, I am going to make a short list of some very specific things I would like for you to include in your prayers. Here goes:

1. That I would gain back some of my strength and that the pain, or whatever is making me so uncomfortable would subside.

2. That with each new day I would start feeling less victimized by my surgery.

3. That God would continue to pull my family through this.

4. That I would remember and continue to be thankful that I am CANCER FREE.

Thank you and I know I will reap the benefits of your prayers. This is the first time I have ever had a major surgery and I had no idea what to expect. I really thought I would be able to just bounce back. Ryan keeps reminding me that having both breast removed is NOT like having a tooth removed. It will take me longer, much longer, to recover.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Day At A Time

Last night went pretty well. After adjusting myself at least 10 times, I finally found a comfortable position to sleep in. I honestly think the hospital bed was more comfortable than my bed at home. I really wish that I had one of those mechanical beds like they have at the hospitals. It sure would make getting out of bed easier! Ryan has been a great nurse! I'm sure the nurses would be happy to know that he is doing a fabulous job on emptying my drains, accurately measuring the fluid, and recording the information. He has been at my beckon call. I can't do much of anything on my own and that is so frustrating for me. Just getting a glass out of the cabinet is a struggle. However, the most difficult thing has been my inability to take care of Charley. I have only seen her a few times since Wednesday. She is smart and I know she can sense that something is wrong with her mommy. I am looking forward to gaining a little bit of strength back each day. With that strength, I am going to hug, kiss, and hold Charley until she is just sick of me! Please pray that her sweet, innocent heart would be comforted over the next couple of days as she spends time with her grandparents and others. Also pray that she would be overwhelmed with love and that I would recover at a speedy rate!

On one final note, I have added my email address to this blog. I know there are a lot of people out there keeping up with my journey, some of which I know, and some of which I have never met. No matter how you discovered my blog, I don't believe it was by accident. If you wish, feel free to email me. I would love to know who you are!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I am finally home! There really is no place like home. I was greeted by Charley and that was just what I needed. All she wanted to do was give her mom some lovin'. Feeling her little arms wrap around my neck was incredible. She is at Nana & Grandpa's tonight and I know that she is being well taken care of. The house is extra quiet and I'm not sure I like it, but I know it is for the best while I rest and regain my strength. I am actually not in a lot of pain. However, I am also taking some pretty strong pain medicine so it must be working.

This morning, Dr. Geter, my plastic surgeon, came into my room bright and early to remove my bandages. I was a little nervous about this because I didn't know what to expect. I have to say, I was really impressed. I don't have much, but what I do have is shaped nicely and actually looks like a breast. Ryan and I were both very impressed by Dr. Geter's work and are looking forward the next couple of weeks as my breast really begin to take shape. It's exciting to know that I get to pick the size of my new breast. I know a lot of women who would love to have that opportunity! I will see Dr. Cavagnol next week and Dr. Geter the following week. Dr. Geter will remove my drains and that is a day that both Ryan and I are looking forward to.

When I left the hospital today, there was still not a pathology report. God heard my prayers once again because Dr. Cavagnol called me at home around 5:15 with the results. The pathology report showed no additional cancer beyond the breast! The tumor measured around 2.2 cm which was a little larger than first thought. The tissue surrounding the tumor was all clear meaning that the tumor HAD NOT spread any further into the breast. In addition, the lymph nodes that were removed with the breast did not show any cancer. They also checked my left breast for cancer and it was all clear! Thank you Lord for using Dr. Cavagnol to take the cancer from my body.

For those of you wondering if I will still be doing chemo, the answer is yes. Although the cancer is gone and I am considering myself to be cancer free, I am still going to take the opportunity to kill any microscopic cells that could contain cancer. These cells could be completely unrelated to my breast cancer. As I have said before, God had walked me through this entire process and I know that chemo is something that He has planned for my life, therefore I will obey Him.

Thank you for your prayers and continued support. May this journey continue to strengthen my life and yours. Praise God for His healing power!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Cancer Free!!!

Yea! I finally feel alert enough to give you all an update! First let me start out by saying thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. I cannot even begin to describe the peace I felt going into surgery. My fears were swept away and I knew that God was right there with me, holding my hand every second. I have to admit that I don't remember much from yesterday. However, from what I understand, Dr. Cavagnol couldn't even see the tumor when he removed my breast. We are waiting on a pathology report, but that is just standard procedure after a bilateral mastectomy. As of now, there is no evidence that the cancer has spread. I am faithful that God was with Dr. Cavagnol as he did the procedure and that the cancer is completely gone. I am so happy that I went ahead with the surgery first and that I can now focus on healing and preparing for further treatment.

I will be going home tomorrow. The unfortunate part of that is that I will be going home with my drains. I will have them for about another 12 days. Apparently, I have a lot of fluid in my chest area that needs to be drained out. I want to do what is best, so I guess I will have to get used to living with the drains for awhile. At least I don't have to actually clean them out......that's Ryan's job. I can't tell you how much he is looking forward to that!

I really haven't had a lot of horrible pain. I have been on fairly strong pain medication which I know has helped. The downfall of that has been a horrible itchy feeling I have developed. So, in addition to the pain meds, I am now taking benadryl. Let me just tell you that the combination of those two drugs is almost enough to make you comatose! I am actually holding off on the drugs until later tonight so that I can eat dinner with Ryan and visit with my family. However, I am excited for the great amount of rest I will get this evening.

As I mentioned earlier, I know that so many of you have been praying because I can feel it within my soul. My mom and dad's Sunday school class held a prayer vigil for me during the hours of my surgery yesterday, and at last night's prayer service at James River, the pastor and entire congregation prayed for me. That is incredible. The power of prayer continues to work in my life. I know that through this blog lives are being touched. I pray that everyone who reads this blog knows the God that I know or comes to know Him. I am so excited because I feel that He has great things in store for my life. I can't wait to see how He uses me to bring others closer to Him. As crazy as it sounds, this is such an exciting time in my life. With each new day I am encouraged and strengthened by God's love and His work in my life. My prayer is that you are encouraged and strengthened as well.

I would like to end this posting by thanking all the wonderful doctors and nurses who have taken care of me the past two days. I will always remember Dr. Cavagnol and Dr. Geter as two exceptional doctors, chosen by God, to heal me and put me back together again. Thank you! I have also met so many amazing nurses while at the hospital. Thank you Mandy, Bobbie, Tammy, Deb, Candace, & Shelly for your exceptional care. I will always remember your compassion and the care you gave me, even when I was a little difficult to handle. Also, I can't thank my family enough for everything they have done. Thanks Sharon and Roger for taking such great care of Charley while I was in surgery yesterday. I know that she had a great time playing with her MiMi and PaPa. Thank you Ryan for your great care and compassion. I know this is affecting you as much as it is me and I really appreciate your strength. My mom has also been a great help during all of this. She has sat with me and been at my beckon call. Thanks mom. You are so awesome and I am so glad to have had you by my side through this experience. You are such an inspiration to me and I love you so much. To my dad, thank you so much for the wonderful prayer you said before I headed into surgery. Your prayer meant so much to me and comforted me in a time of fear and anxiousness. I am so blessed to have such loving parents.

I am looking forward to going home tomorrow and sleeping in my own bed. Although a big part of this journey is over, another part is just beginning and I continue to need all of your prayers. Please pray that I would recover quickly and gain my strength back. I can't wait to hold Charley in my arms again. Also, please pray that the pathology report would come back all clear. Remember, I am human and waiting for a pathology report is not something I enjoy. There is always some fear hanging over my head and following me around no matter how hard I try to get away from it. Please know that just as you are all praying for me, I am praying for you as well. We can all use prayer, and I pray that God would touch your lives and show himself to you just as He has done for me. Thank you and Praise Be To God for His unconditional love and miraculous healing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mel's Out Of Surgery!

Hey guys this is an update from Hilary. I told Mel I would do some blog updates until she is up and ready to do them herself. Mel is doing great. Here are the details. She arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am with Ryan and her parents. She was taken back to surgery around 6:50 a.m. They told us that she would be in surgery approximately 4 hours. At 9 a.m. Dr. Cavagnol came out and informed us that she was doing great. That the mastectomy was completed. He said the cancer was isolated to the right breast. Praise the Lord! At 11:00 a.m. Dr. Geter the plastic surgeon came out to say that he was done with the reconstruction and placement of the expanders. Mel did fantastic!!! They were very pleased that she did not lose a lot of blood. After an hour in recovery she got a PRIVATE room. Another prayer request answered.

Currently, Melody is sleeping in her room. She will probably be out of it most of the day. Her family and I cannot thank you enough for your prayers. Please keep them coming. If I hear anything else I will be sure to update the blog. Mel's Cancer Free....Thanks be to God!

The Time Has Come

Would you believe that I actually slept for about 4 hours last night? God was gracious in giving me at least that much sleep. I did wake up a little earlier than I had hoped, but now I am able to squeeze one more post in before heading to the hospital. This is it. Today God is taking this awful cancer from my body and I am faithful that I will never have to worry about cancer again. Thank you Lord.

Most of you know my husband Ryan, but for those of you who do not, let me tell you that he is the most compassionate and loving man I know. Yesterday, he sent me an email that really portrays who he is as a person. I wanted to share it with all of you so you would know the strength and encouragement that I am so very fortunate to have from Ryan. Here is the email that he sent me:

"Mel, you are more than a conqueror! You are guided by cannot lose....He battles for you! Be comforted, accept the peace He offers you through this journey...its yours for the taking.

I, along with our entire family, are backing you up 100%!!

Thank you for what you are doing about this breast cancer...THANK YOU!!! I can't wait to see the look on Charley's face one of these days when she realizes how much her Mommy loves her!!! That will be a great day!

Stay strong, there are many people who are relying on you right now. As for Charley and I, no worries, no drama.....just know we love you and will be by your side for every moment of this! We look forward to NOON tomorrow....cancer free."

Lord, thank you for Ryan. Thank you for giving me such a loving husband who stands firm in his faith and sees the goodness you are bringing to our family through this unfortunate circumstance. We know that this is all a part of your perfect plan for my life. Lord, be with me this morning. Take every ounce of this cancer from my body. I pray that the cancer would still be contained to the breast. Be with Dr. Cavagnol and Dr. Geter as you use them to heal me and make me whole. Be their hands and comfort them as they work on me. Bring me strength and healing Lord. Let this be a day of celebration as you heal me from cancer. Allow peace to overcome fear and perseverance to overcome doubts. God you are so good. I love you. Continue to use me to further you kingdom. Amen.

Time to be CANCER FREE!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Final Countdown

Well, it's Tuesday. This time tomorrow morning I will be checked into the hospital awaiting my bilateral mastectomy. I can't believe it. It really is bittersweet. Today, I have my breast. Today, I have cancer. Tomorrow, I am CANCER FREE. Tomorrow, I don't have breast.....or at least my own. I am anxious. I am so ready to get this entire procedure put behind me so that I can move on with my life. I know requesting this is not necessary, but please pray for me and my family tomorrow and in the coming days. I am more worried about Ryan and Charley than myself. I can't imagine what it will be like for him to sit out in the waiting room for hours while I am in surgery. Please ask that God would bring peace to my family as they wait and wonder how things are going. For me, I would ask that you pray for the surgeons. Please pray that God would guide their hands and that there would be no complications. Finally, please pray for Charley. I know she will be in good hands and for those helping to watch her in the coming days, please make sure you give her lots and lots of lovin' from her mommy. I have instructed Ryan to bring the laptop to the hospital and am hopeful that I will be able to give you all an update tomorrow afternoon or evening. Your prayers have been incredible through this entire process. Please continue to pray. I know that it is not always the most convenient. I'll even admit that sometimes my mind is thinking more of the day ahead than of the prayer I should be saying with ALL my heart. I just want you all to know that when you are praying, I know it. I can feel peace in my heart and there is no fear. God hears your prayers.

Yesterday, Ryan and I celebrated the life of his grandpa, Kenneth Wagner. He passed away last Thursday at the age of 91. Ryan was actually named Kenneth Ryan Wasson and is so proud to carry on his grandpa's name. It was a beautiful ceremony and celebration of life. As I passed by the casket at the funeral, I was reminded that our bodies are just a shell that protects the spirit within us. I felt such peace knowing that his grandpa was dancing in heaven and that his spirit would live on forever. We must remember, that what makes us who we are is not what we can physically see on the outside. Who we truly are is displayed by the actions we show and the words we speak.

On one final note, I did get the results from the ultrasound of my ovaries. My right ovary showed a very small cyst. However, after speaking with my OBGYN, she said it is so small, that it is nothing to even be concerned about. They are going to do another ultrasound in eight weeks and re-evaluate the situation. Hopefully, the cyst will be gone and I won't have to worry about that part of my body.

Thanks again for all the prayers. I have a lot to be thankful for. Tomorrow will be a day of celebration and rejoicing as I am healed from cancer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bad Genes

Yesterday I got the results of my genetic testing. I tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene. We pretty much new that this would be the result because of my cancer being hormone negative. Having this gene means that I had a 85% chance of getting breast cancer sometime in my life. I actually have an even higher chance of developing breast cancer in my other breast now that I have already had cancer. With this gene, there is also an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 40. My mom actually went with me yesterday to get the results and was told since I tested positive, she also has the gene. Her paternal grandmother died of breast cancer at the age of 44. Because my mom has the gene, my great-grandmother also had the gene and it has continued to be passed down all the way to me. Charley has a 50/50 chance of having inherited the gene from me. However, if she did, I am confident that by the time she even has to worry about breast cancer, there will be a cure.

Because of the increased risk for ovarian cancer, I had an ultrasound done yesterday of my ovaries and a blood test. I should know the results of those on Monday. Receiving the results of the gene test yesterday only reinforced my decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. I'm not so sure that having the gene is such a bad thing. At least I know why I developed the cancer and how to prevent it from showing back up.

Last night I went to my mom's support group that she has been attending for almost 20years. I met some awesome women and was very encouraged by their stories of recovery and survival. It was nice to go with my mom and meet some of the women I had heard about for so many years. I am looking forward to going back and being an inspiration to them. This week, I would ask that you pray for strength. In addition, please pray that the ultrasound of the ovaries would come back negative. I am ready move forward in this journey so that I can move on with my life.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bye Bye Boobies

This past Tuesday, Hilary threw me a special party. It was a going away party for my boobies. When I first got my diagnosis, several people told me that before they had their mastectomy, they had a "going away" party. I loved the idea! Throughout this entire process I have really tried to remain positive and keep my humor up and running. I could not think of a better way to celebrate and honor my boobies than with a going away party. Hilary organized the entire event and it was so much fun. We met at Big Whiskey's downtown where we had our own private room upstairs complete with arcade games and a pool table. It was so great having all my friends come and support me. We were able to laugh, visit, and most importantly celebrate life and all that God has done for me so far. Of course, I had some boobie awareness stickers that I passed out to everyone. Hilary's sister, Rachel, was nice enough to go the breast cancer Foundation of the Ozarks and get a bunch of pink bracelets, ink pens, and other free hand-me outs. By the end of the party I even had our waiter wearing a "Feel Your Boobies" sticker and bracelet.

As we were leaving the restaurant that evening, Tom, our waiter, approached us and told us how his aunt and grandma had been diagnosed with cancer recently. He told us that this party had given him a more positive outlook on cancer and that he would be praying for me. Wow! How incredible! Another life touched by the grace of God.

Thanks Hilary for throwing an incredible party and thanks to everyone who was able to make it! Bye Bye Boobies!

Bye Bye Boobies

Click on the Album for more Pics!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A New Plan of Action

When you have cancer, things change from one day to the next. As I have mentioned before, throughout this entire process I have been very proactive in finding out information about my condition. I have been responsible for my own well-being and the gathering of information. My oncologist was on vacation all last week which made things hectic for me. Once I had my surgery scheduled for this Friday, I called the oncology office so they could let Dr. Hoos know of my plans. I also mentioned that three weeks after surgery, Dr. Geter, my plastic surgeon, would be putting in my expanders so that throughout chemo he could slowly expand my breastless chest. It was then that she informed me that having the expanders put in three weeks later would delay starting chemo and that I would not be allowed to have any injections during chemo because of the risk of infection. This was very discouraging to me. What's the point in having the expanders put in before chemo if I can't even have them expanded?

Monday of this week I put a call into Dr. Geter's office. I explained to Dr. Geter what I had been told and thankfully, he gave me another option. The reason that he did not want to do the expanders at the time of surgery is because my skin needs to be able to scar to my breast muscle. If he were to put the expander in immediately following surgery and my muscle were to contract, it would create a ball in my breast that would never go away. Allowing the skin to scar to the muscle first, prevents this from happening once the expander has been put in. However, there is a procedure that Dr. Geter can do at the time of surgery to prevent this from happening. After my breasts have been removed (that still doesn't sound right) he is going to take a piece of cow skin, yes...I said cow skin, and stitch it to my breast muscle. Now, before I go any further, let me explain this. First, the cow skin has been stripped of all it's cells and is very sterilized. It serves as just a collagen. That is then stitched to my breast muscle which keeps it from contracting. At the same time, he can go ahead and put in the expanders and even expand them somewhat. This will all take place at the same time as my bilateral mastectomy. Then, after I have healed some, Dr. Geter will be able to fully expand me before I begin chemo. This will eliminate the injections during chemo and means that after chemo is finished, I will be able to have my permanent implants put in.

Dr. Geter's schedule was already full this Friday, so my surgery has been pushed back to next Wednesday, July 15Th. Since this procedure is obviously more invasive than just the bilateral mastectomy, I will be in the hospital for more than just one day....thank goodness! I am very anxious to have my surgery. That will be a huge step in the right direction. I can hardly believe that it was just one month ago that I was having my biopsy done. Who would have ever thought that one month later I would be preparing for mastectomy's and chemotherapy? Oh, how your life can change in just one day.

On one final note, my genetic test is back. I have to go into the office tomorrow to get my results. Both Ryan and I know what the results will probably be. However, we also know that God is bigger than any gene test. Please pray that the test would be negative. I would love to not have to worry about whether or not I might have passed the gene to Charley. God is so good and I know he will continue to carry my family through this process. I like to imagine myself being carried by God's arms to each appointment and each procedure. Once I arrive, He puts me down and stays with me until that part of the journey is complete. When it's over, He picks me back up and takes me to the next destination. I don't have to do anything. He does it all.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Me Oh My, It's Almost Surgery Time

After today, I will only have four more days to enjoy my breast. I know that sounds a little weird, but I think I may have taken them for granted in the past. Thinking about never seeing them again kind of makes me sad. It does help when I think about my breast being deadly. That helps convince me that they must go. The one thing I have noticed over the past couple of weeks is that the only time I actually see my breast is when I am getting out of the shower or getting dressed. Other than that, they are always covered up. With that being said, I am at ease knowing that I will one day have breast again, maybe ones that are even better than these!

I haven't been sleeping very well at night. The thought of surgery is always looming over my head or present in my dreams. Today, Ryan hung a new calendar in our office. I purchased this calendar so that Ryan would be able to help me keep track of when to take my anti-nausea medicine throughout chemo. The calendar won't be serving that purpose for a few more weeks. However, today I went ahead and wrote all the dates on it for July and started filling in the days with our scheduled appointments. When I got to July 11Th, I first thought about writing "Surgery" accompanied with a sad face. However, I knew that this was not something to grieve over but rather to celebrate. So instead, I wrote the words "Cancer Free!" with a smiley face. God does not want me to fear nor worry about next Friday. I firmly believe that He wants me to hold my head up high and know that I am being obedient to Him. He has been so gracious to me through this entire experience. He has answered prayer after prayer. And now, He has given me the opportunity to completely remove this cancer from my body. I will obey Him and I will glorify Him through the entire experience. I will continue to allow Him to use me as a tool to further His kingdom, no matter what that may entail.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

God Is So Good!

Praise God! Today I got my results back from the PET scan that I had done yesterday. The test results indicated that there was no metastasis (spreading) and that the cancer is strictly confined to the right breast! Yea!! I cannot believe how God continues to pick me up and pull me through all of this. He is so incredible. Ryan and I are so happy. The wisdom and discernment that we so desperately needed, God provided. Thank you for your prayers. I hope you are all seeing the glory of God and how He is so much bigger than any of our problems. I am so thankful for all the prayer warriors I have out there! Keep praying and praising God for all that He has done.

Going into surgery next week will be indescribable. I know going in that I am coming out without my breast. However, I also know that going into surgery I have cancer, and coming out I am CANCER FREE! Wow! How could it get any better than that? Looking back on the experience so far, I have to say that I would not have done one thing differently. I feel fully armed to battle this cancer. I would encourage all women to gather their information before diving in and making decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. The way I feel about my diagnosis and the decisions I have made are completely different than when I first found out I had cancer. God granted me the wisdom to slow down, ask questions, and make informed decisions. Thank you God!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Doing What's Right For Me (continued)

For those of you checking the blog, you might want to read the post from earlier today if you haven't already done so. This morning I got a call from the oncology nurse and I am scheduled to have PET scan tomorrow morning at 8:15. Thank you God for providing this before my surgery. A PET scan is a full-body scan that uses very high imaging to detect cancer anywhere in the body, with the exception of the bones. A PET scan is one of those things that is comforting, yet scary at the same time. I am truly faithful that I don't have cancer anywhere else in my body. However, knowing I will be having a scan to check for this is nerve-racking. For now, it just gives me one more thing to worry about. However, I would much rather know what I am up against if there is more cancer somewhere else. Not knowing is much more nerve-racking. If the scan is clear, I will know for sure that I am making the right decision to have surgery first. If the scan shows anything unordinary, I will be able to have a chemo treatment at the end of the week. Having a PET scan will undoubtedly be a great way of gauging whether or not I am making the right decisions. I should have the results back from the scan on Thursday afternoon.

I also met with Dr. Cavagnol this afternoon and I am scheduled to have a bilateral mastectomy next Friday, July 11Th. Bring it on. I am so ready to have this cancer removed from my body. I am confident in Dr. Cavagnol and know that he will do a great job. The crazy thing is that I will only be in the hospital for one day! From what I understand the actual procedure is not horribly painful, which is good.

I am in need of a very specific prayer over the next couple of days. Please pray that the PET scan would be all clear. This is a HUGE thing and I desperately need to know that my cancer is ONLY in my breast. Thank you!

Doing What's Right For Me

Well, I finally have some decisions made and some time to update everyone. There has been a lot going on over the past couple of days. As you all know, my lymph nodes where negative which is an amazing blessing from God! After finding out the nodes where negative, I had still planned on going ahead with chemotherapy first. However, because I had not spoken or met with my oncologist since first finding out I had cancer, I thought it would be a good idea to call him and make sure that having chemo first was still the best option for me. I had begun to wonder if having the surgery first, knowing that the cancer is strictly confined to the breast, would be a better plan of action. I called Dr. Hoos (my oncologist) last Thursday morning and received a call back that afternoon from his nurse. She told me that Dr. Hoos did want me to proceed with chemo first because I had been diagnosed with triple negative breast disease. When I asked her what this meant, she wasn't so sure herself. Being the end of the day, I hung up the phone and immediately began researching triple negative breast disease (tnbd). I would highly recommend that you don't do this. I am going to add two very reputable sites at the end of this post where you can read about it if you wish. After doing some research, I was completely paralyzed with fear. Basically, TNBD is a fairly new term used to describe a breast cancer that is completely hormone negative. This means that hormone therapy will not benefit me whatsoever and that chemo is the only regimen by which to kill this kind of cancer. In addition, TNBD tends to spread at a faster rate and has a greater risk of recurrence somewhere else in the body. The one good thing about it is because it does not respond to hormone therapy, it is known to respond better to chemo than other hormone positive breast cancers.

Ryan and I had a lengthy discussion about my situation and where beginning to lean more and more towards having the surgery first, followed by chemo. I called Dr. Hoos Friday morning and once again left a message for him. I requested to meet with him that afternoon to discuss my concerns. This was very important to me knowing that I was scheduled to have chemo on Monday. The nurse finally called me back later in the day and said that Dr. Hoos had left for vacation and would be gone all next week. I cannot tell you the feeling of abandonment Ryan and I had at that moment. Here I had just learned (through my own research) that I had a very unique cancer that only affects 10 - 15% of all breast cancers and I had no one to discuss my options with.

Later that afternoon I met with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Geter, and he discussed with Ryan and I the different options for reconstruction. Ryan got to handle a silicone implant and he enjoyed that part. I thought for a second that he might even try to sneak one in his pocket to bring home! After leaving Dr. Geter's office, we headed over to Dr. Cavagnol's for any last bit of hope or insight as to what our decision should be. Dr. Cavagnol explained to us the benefit of having chemo first. He also said it could be possible that there are tiny cancer cells somewhere else in my body that need to be zapped and by doing chemo first we would get a jump start on killing those cells. When we left his office, Ryan and I thought we had made up our mind and had decided to go ahead with the chemo first. However, there was a bit of doubt within the both of us that this was the right decision, despite what the doctors where advising. Over the weekend, we talked about the pros and cons of both scenarios. Every waking minute was spent hashing over what we should do. We gathered the opinions of others (some in the medical profession) and really prayed that God would give us a discernment, wisdom, and peace in regards to making a decision. When you have cancer, you don't have a lot of time to make decisions and that is very difficult. If my nodes had been positive, I would have been having chemo first, no questions asked. However, my nodes where negative, by the grace of God, so surgery seemed liked a better option. The problem is, my nodes are negative, but my cancer is aggressive, fast-growing, and tends to spread.

Ryan and I came to the agreement that it was absolutely critical that I meet with an oncologist yesterday before having chemo or surgery. We felt that it was our right as the patient to be informed about my condition. So, yesterday afternoon at 4:30, we met with Dr. Holden, the oncologist on call for Dr. Hoos. We told him that we had decided to go ahead with the surgery first. I did discuss with him the possibility of getting a PET scan before surgery. He told us that this wasn't really standard procedure because the size of my tumor is less than 2cm, my nodes where clear, and my blood work looked good as well. However, he said that if I really wanted one, he would order one. Well, I'm not going to turn that down. He went on to explain that there isn't any research to show that chemo before or after surgery makes a difference. He also said that because I am young and healthy, he believes that the chemo will destroy any cancer cells that might be floating around elsewhere. He had no reason to believe that the chemo wouldn't do its job.

Ryan and I left his office feeling huge amounts of relief and with this decision made: I will have surgery first, followed by chemo. We are hoping to have the PET scan done before surgery, but we aren't sure if that is going to be possible. The only reason I would end up having chemo first would be if I have the PET scan before surgery and something shows up other than in my breast. If there is cancer somewhere else (and we have no reason to believe that there is) then we want to start killing the cancer as fast as possible. If nothing shows up, then we are on to surgery. Surgery would mean that I am cancer free! There is a chance that I won't be able to get the PET scan before surgery because of scheduling conflicts. If that ends of being the case, then I will have the surgery, forget about the PET scan, and never look back.

Through this process so far, Ryan and I have realized that we have to do what is right for me. We have to also treat what we know, not what we don't know. What we know is that I have a triple negative breast disease that is Stage I with no node involvement. We know that the cancer is confined to the breast. We know that by having the surgery first, I am staying one-step ahead of my cancer. We know that by having chemo, I am killing any little cancer cell that is still trying to set-up shop in my body. Leaving a cancer in my body, no matter how small, is not a risk I am willing to take. While speaking to someone on the phone this week, (thank you God for bringing this person into my life) they stated that you have to make sure your entire body is moving forward in this process. I have to keep my eye on the ball and treat what I know, and what I know is that after surgery I will be cancer free!

I am meeting with Dr. Cavagnol this morning to schedule surgery and to make sure he knows how to use a scalpel. As soon as I know when I will be having surgery, I will update you all! Now that decisions have been made, please pray that this process would begin very soon. The sooner it begins, the sooner it ends!

Thank you God for giving Ryan and I the wisdom and peace we so desperately needed!