Surgery, Work, Anxiety and all the things.

In less than a week I will be having my surgery to get implants in, tissue expanders OUT! Can I have an AMEN? I’ve appreciated the look of the tissue expanders under the clothes to make me feel “normal” again (what ever does that mean anymore?)

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement though. I have anxiety about surgery. I had a bilateral mastectomy last July, and after that had some edge necrosis that needed debridement, creating a wound that didn’t fully close up until just a couple of weeks ago. Chemo not only slowed that process down, it completely stopped it…even reversed the healing of that wound. This surgery is happening not a minute too soon, although I am still anxious about it because my first one was 7 1/2 hours with everything they had to do, and the recovery slow and painful. The tissue expanders are HARD. They are uncomfortable. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have “real” boobs. I mourn the loss of my nipples. I want to feel normal again.

I don’t want any more healing issues. I’m sick of bacitracin ointment and gauze and tape. I’m sick of skin irritation due to bandages and tape. To say I have PCSD (Post Cancer Stress Disorder) would be accurate. I’ve since returned to work and work stress has sent me into anxiety overload. The stress was rare though and I’ve since relocated to a better fitting salon for me. I’ve had feelings of wondering if I jumped back into work too quickly, trying to gain some sense of normalcy in my life again. Then being expected to be “normal” all the time when I’m clearly still recouping from a stressful 6-9 months? It’s all just too much sometimes and tears want to spring up just typing this. I should seek therapy. Bless my husband…he’s heard it all and even felt it directed at him although it’s never intentional. He’s still madly in love with me and not running for the hills. Yay for patient loving men! I’ve felt like a raving lunatic at times. Pretty sure I’m blaming Tamoxifen for that one. Oh yeah, and the fact that I’m a cancer patient but I “Look so good.. handling it so well…taking it like a champ…am an inspiration…staying so positive…” Sure I am upbeat and happy but I am not perfect and I lose my cool sometimes, especially when people act like nothing should be wrong with me and why are you acting so strange? Please be patient with me, y’all. Cancer is hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. In fact, if my worst enemy had cancer I’d cry with her too because I know what she’d be facing. (Just kidding, I don’t have enemies!)

I do have an appointment on the 10th to see my Primary Care doc, and I will be talking to her about all the feelings and the anxiety. She knows about some of it though. I was supposed to see her last month but that appointment got canceled due to weather. My surgery is the very next day, at 6am. It should be a 90 minute procedure, in and out. Wham, bam thank you ma’am and I should be good as new (not really) and ready to go home that day.

Let’s hope and pray for no surprises this time around, shall we?
XOXO,
Jen

A New Normal

It’s been just under 2 months since I returned to work & life is beginning to feel like a new normal again. I go for my 3rd Herceptin only infusion & visit with my medical oncologist tomorrow. I was supposed to have the wound on my left side stitched up about 3 weeks ago, but it was healing on its own so we postponed that. Now it’s VERY VERY small & will be closed within a few days. I’m glad I opted against that procedure. I love seeing all that new pink skin that’s grown there! Hopefully tomorrow I can show Amanda & can schedule surgery for my implants…. FINALLY! This process has been a long one.

My hair is returning! I have been buzzing it to a 0 guard though because it is still thickening up. The thin spot at my crown isn’t noticeable now so hopefully I can just let it BE for awhile. Yesterday was the first day I worked with NO HAT! Everyone just thinks I have a buzz cut unless I tell them why. I know I’m one of the “lucky” ones in that regard, I can totally pull off the buzzed/bald look & it’s nice. I do miss doing funky things to my hair sometimes, but the no maintenance thing is awesome. My eyelashes are thickening up again and I’ll have to wax my eyebrows soon too. Now if the leg hair would just stay away.. hehe.

Last weekend (Feb 26-Mar 2) was the first weekend I traveled since my cancer journey started. I flew up to Minneapolis to be with my family for my brother’s wedding & then “girls weekend” with my mom, sister & stepsister for Mom’s birthday. It was TONS of fun & I really needed the family fix. Not everyone was able to make it, but I enjoyed the time spent with the ones that could. Mike stayed home & held the fort down. (I LOVE HIM.)

Before I left, I went by the Pretty In Pink boutique and purchased a compression sleeve for my arm on the side that I had lymph nodes removed. It’s to wear when I fly or exercise, as a prevention measure against lymphedema. I fell on my arm on Valentine’s Day and had a huge (though heart shaped!)  bruise on that side.. never had any lymphedema so I’m being really cautious now about that. Better safe than sorry. The compression sleeve is kind of a pain to put on/wear & it’s not the most attractive thing in the world but hey, neither is a big swollen arm. I’ll take precautions any day.

I have been working working working except when we have traveled to Crossville (Mike’s mom’s bday) and last weekend. This weekend coming up I’m finally getting a couple days off (without having to ask for them!) and Jess & Carter will be here to visit. I’m excited, and hope the weather is as gorgeous as it was this past weekend.

That’s all for now!

Cabin fun

The weekend getaway to Lake Cumberland with our friends was a great time. I drank a little too much the first night (hello, lightweight!) and passed out by 9:30pm but the next evening took it much slower and was able to partake in all the game playing. No hot tubbing for me this year (damn wound is still open). We were introduced to a new game (to us) called Werewolf. We had such fun with it that we’re now talking about getting together once a month to play it and other games. There was also Cards Against Humanity & Twister played. Also a drinking game called “Never Have I Ever” in which I had to drink on almost every question, and our good friend Jenn kept holding her phone up with the word “Prude” on it because she was staying quite sober through the game. There was yoga lessons happening in the basement and other crafty things happening. No mani/pedis this time since we were at a coed event. Although I think some of the guys would love to have pedis done on them! 🙂 Sam Bradley made one of these and it’s awesome! I want me, my sisters and my mom to make them when I go up to MN for my brother’s wedding at the end of this month.

All in all, it was a great time away with our crew. I love all of these people and am so happy they’re in our lives. Good friends are priceless, especially when family is so far away.

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Update on all the thangs

I’ve been back at work now for 2 weeks. I started a job working at Great Clips (love the company, have worked for them before) in Green Hills here in Nashville. It’s been quite the adjustment going from being at home all the time during the day to working 35 hours a week, but I have been feeling like myself again after finishing chemo, and since we aren’t sure when the next surgery will be, I felt it was time to get back in the game. The guy called me an hour after I applied, and I interviewed and accepted the job the very next day. My first day was January 25th. It was perfect timing for a lot of reasons.

My schedule is not set but I do know in advance when I’ll work. Sometimes I open and work 9-3/4 (or like yesterday until 5) and sometimes I work a mid or closing shift. I’ve been working the last 2 weekends, both Saturday and Sunday. It’s a given that when working in a salon like this that Saturdays are a norm. However, since we are open Sunday too, I think I prefer working those days. Most don’t want to work on Sunday whereas I’d love to have Saturday off to go do fun things with my husband & boys. Sundays are good days to work because I can make $1 more an hour. So I told my manager that I don’t mind working weekends and I can do both days but I don’t want to do that every weekend. If you need me to work a weekend day I prefer Sunday vs. Saturday. Hopefully the schedule will ease up a bit. My manager and the staff there are all pretty cool, so I’m sure it will work out great. Like I said, it’s just an adjustment for me. The salon is trying to rebuild after a “meh” year in 2013, so I am committed to helping them do that however I can. I do believe I work for the best Great Clips in Nashville as far as clientele and staff.. the numbers just need to reflect that! And they will.

Yesterday was probably my best shift that I’ve worked as far as feeling in the groove with the salon operations and my work *at the same.damn.time!* (running joke Mike & I have) I felt like I made great connections with the customers, my haircut times didn’t stink & I even sold some product. It was an 8 hour shift so when I felt like I needed a break, I clocked out for one. Usually on a 6 hour shift I don’t and it doesn’t even faze me. I can eat or drink during slow times usually but yesterday I really needed to take a load off for 30 minutes off the clock, eat my lunch, and just chill. It helped.

I’m continuing with my infusions every 3 weeks. The last one will be August 5th. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep my port in after that, but it doesn’t really bother me, so if they recommend keeping it longer, that’s OK by me. I love having that available for them to access for blood draws and thangs. I have good veins, but if I had them stuck every 3 weeks like I do now, they would probably not stay in great condition.

The boys have been great.. Tyler is taking part in a research study through Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital on sleep patterns, cortisol and melatonin levels in autistic kids. (Obviously he’s part of the study where they get data from non-autistic kids) He signed up to do it himself and we met with one of the women leading the study last week. This week he’s been wearing the watch they gave him that monitors activity and sleep (like my fitbit!), keeping a diary of when he’s sleeping and when he showers or swims because that’s when the watch has to come off. He also has been taking spit samples every morning and evening just when he wakes, and before he brushes his teeth. I have to deliver those to the Children’s Hospital on Monday along with the first watch from this week. The second watch he put on this morning and will wear through the remainder of the month. He’s doing so well keeping up with it himself! Of course the initial reason he signed up to do this was for the cash, but he told the lady last week that once he read about the study, it all sounded very interesting to him. He makes me proud! He’s still interested in becoming an Anesthesiologist and we’ve been talking a good bit about college prep. It’s so crazy to think that I have a kid starting his Senior year THIS fall. Just wow.

Hunter is in the stage of freshman year where he’s deciding which Academy he will go into. Nashville Metro Schools offers this program and I think it’s really cool because It gets kids thinking about career paths. Every student studies the same core subjects, but the Academies are for their elective courses, and those are categorized by what will serve their career path best. Hunter chose to go into the Art, Design & Communication Academy, and I think that is a perfect fit for him. He’s also joining the Debate club at school. Kid LOVES to argue, and loves to be right. A lot of times he is right, and it’s kind of annoying (I too, love to be right so we butt heads sometimes) I love this kid. He’s probably the most challenging of my three personality wise, but his strong will & determination will definitely take him far in life. He’s so creative too.. he could go into Law, acting, web & logo design, or whatever the heck he wants! I know every parent says this about their kid, but because of his determination, I know that he can (and will) do whatever he sets his mind to. Steering him in the right direction to where he can flourish is the trick. He seems to be going in a good direction, so this momma is happy.

And then there’s Austin. My schedule and craziness has not allowed me time to FaceTime or text with him lately and I hate it. I miss him so much, I just want him HERE. He’s doing well in school and still playing the tuba there, so I think he’s happy. I know he wants to move back to TN though. We are wanting to move closer to Mike’s work (closer to everything in town too) so are on the hunt for a 4 bedroom apartment or house if we can find one in our range. It can even be 3 bedrooms, if the one bedroom is large enough for Hunter & Austin to share.

This weekend should be fun. We are heading to our annual adult cabin getaway with friends. This time closer than Gatlinburg. I can’t wait! Then Monday, Leah (one of my Traniac friends from Australia!) will be here & we are having breakfast with Karen & Abbe. I’m glad I finally get to meet her. There’s a Train cruise next weekend that I can’t go on, and she’s touring Nash & Memphis before heading to FL to get on the boat with a bunch more of our friends. I’m jealous, but know the opportunity will most likely happen again next year. This year just isn’t good timing for me for that.

That’s enough of an update this time around. TTFN!

Farewell to 2013

2013 was a horribly stressful year. Most of you know the basics and a few of you know all the ins and outs of just how stressful it was. Totaling the Jeep in late 2012 & the consequences from that…being without a vehicle of my own & all the court stuff. I’ll be done with that soon though. Having a full house of people, kids & pets for a good portion of 2012-2013. Cancer, moving, surgery, “what about the house”, relationship stresses. Etc.

The main great thing is we made it to Nashville. I’m done with chemo and am moving on with treatment that’s a lot easier to handle. The next surgery won’t be as rough recovery wise. The boys are doing well in school & have adjusted to the move pretty well. We don’t have the dogs & cats anymore. We miss them sometimes, but we are not stressed with the responsibility of them that we really couldn’t handle before. Even through cancer treatment and all that comes with it, we have been able to explore our new town some. It makes me want to do even more. Gives me a lot to look forward to. Mike & I are enjoying the present, closing the door on past junk and looking forward to 2014. I’m not too crazy about new year’s resolutions because a person can make a resolution for change at any time of the year. It’s a great time for a brain reset though and that’s what I’m doing. All I can say about 2014 and my intentions for the year are that I strive to be a better me than I was in previous years. Healthy, happy & whole.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. However you celebrate, be safe.
Cheers!

Life with cancer: Reality vs Fairy Tales

I just read this blog today from another breast cancer warrior. I could have written parts of this post, although my writing is not as eloquent as hers. I recently told one of my “Breasties” on Twitter that I used to think I’d just go through the surgery & treatment my oncology team wants me to, then I’ll be “past this” and move on. To a degree that is still true, but I’m not so naïve to think that after 2014 I’ll simply be “done” with cancer. I will always be some form of a cancer patient. I’m currently going through treatment. Once I’m done with treatment I’ll still have to have regular monitoring for years & years to come. I do hope to be cancer free for a long time, like my grandmother and my aunt. But I’ve met too many Stage IV patients who were in my exact same shoes years ago. They also “caught it early”, but are now fighting to stay alive as long as they can, and with a good quality of life. It’s not fair, and it’s silly for me to think that “it’ll never be me.” I’m not all doom and gloom about it, but I also used think that with the high risk in my family it’d probably still never happen to me. However, I was unlucky and it happened to me. It would be terribly insulting to my Breasties to say , “I’m done guys! No more cancer!”

Positive thinking is nice & is so necessary. I AM a positive person most of the time, but plenty of people who are positive, hopeful & do all the right things still die from cancer. Don’t be ignorant when talking to a cancer patient. Once their treatment is over, the initial worry might be over.. FOR YOU. For cancer patients, recurrence is a very real threat that may not always be right in our face but is always lurking in the back of our minds. Just be kind and mindful of the things you say. That’s all 🙂
XOXO

Music is awesome.

Sometimes a song you’ve heard many times before plays during a special moment & suddenly it’s a meaningful & romantic song.

“Nothing Else Matters” ~ Metallica

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they say
Never cared for games they play
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
And I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
No nothing else matters

No more chemo!!!

Quick-like update:
Today was my 6th & final dose of Taxotere & Carboplatin. Yes!!

My platelets today were up yet again… A HUGE jump from 78K before last chemo to 154K today. Wow!

I’ve been feeling good other than being a tad worn down. The oncologist was concerned that my hemoglobin levels were low. They dropped from last time too. She wasn’t so concerned as to require me to have a blood transfusion, but it’s an option if I start noticing symptoms like shortness of breath, heart palpitations or being more tired than usual (how am I supposed to know?! Lol I’m tired a lot as it is.) I’m hoping I can’t tough it out since I won’t have more chemo treatments and they’ll bounce back on their own.

I go back now in 3 weeks for labs, visit with Dr. Mayer & to have my first Herceptin-only treatment. Those will continue every 3 weeks for a total of 52 weeks. I’ve already had some of those along with the chemo, so I’m presuming I’ll be done with those in August of 2014. I’ll only have to have labs done & see the doc every 9 weeks, so my treatment days are going to be a lot shorter after next time. I can’t wait to get back in the swing of a new normal…Get my energy back, have my hair come back, get a JOB again! After my next surgery (feb-march hopefully?) I’ll feel like I will finally feel like myself again and not this shell of a Jen. (Heh…that rhymed)

I just want to say again how grateful I am for all of you rooting for me, thinking of, praying for, sending love, light & positive vibes to me. You are the best. I’m especially grateful for my husband. He’s been by my side every step of the way & making me feel so loved. I’m a very lucky girl to have him.

2014 will be a great year. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas & New Year with your families. We had a great (albeit short) visit from my mom & stepdad this past weekend. It was so nice to spend time with them in our new city! We will have all our kids here on Thursday. Jess & Carter come Thursday morning, & Austin flies in Thursday night. Can’t wait to hug his neck! I haven’t seen him since right before chemo started!

Ok I’m tired & crashing for the night. Much love.

XOXO,
Jen

Fun weekend & round 5 happened

I had an excellent weekend with friends. Got to go to a couple concerts & hang out with my Train buddies. Moose who is the bassist for FDJ & works for Train turned us onto his band. They’re great! All very nice guys too. We hung out & chatted after both shows with the band & their wives & gfs. Very good times! I also got to see the last 2 gigs for The Hollywood Kills before the lead singer Jonathon moves off to L.A. (Bummer!) the guitar player and backup vocalist, Brent is taking over though and he did a couple songs singing lead. I was impressed. I was able to talk to Brent after the show & tell him how awesome I think they are. I’ll definitely still be supporting them in the future.

So even though I couldn’t have chemo last week, it worked out that I didn’t have to miss seeing my peeps and doing one of my favorite things: hearing live music.

One more round to go. Just one more! I went yesterday at 8am for my labs, and since I saw my doc last week to report how round 4 went, I didn’t need to see her again this week. Around 9:30 I looked on my personal health account online & could see the labs were back… And my platelets were up to 78,000! That’s not a normally good number, but it meant I could receive chemo. *Happy dance*

It took awhile to get called back, I think another hour. Even after that there was a lot of waiting, due to being short staffed & having to manually push chemo for a patient ahead of me. The nurse kept apologizing but Mike & I just said we were happy I was getting chemo today & didn’t have to go home. She wanted to cry she was so thankful for our patience & our good attitudes. She kissed my cheek & hugged Mike.

We finally got to go home around 3:30 (after more hugs from the nurse) although I wanted to check out the Ulta store first. I actually still have a good bit of eyelashes & was overdue for new mascara. Spent a little more for a tube by Benefit called “They’re real!” I love it so far. Got a couple individual eyeshadows that I’ve been running out of in my Urban Decay Naked 2 palette & a face primer. It was a nice pick me up, shopping for makeup. Especially didn’t feel guilty about it because all was replenishing things I use daily.

Today I’ve only been out of bed to use the bathroom. Mike wanted to stay home with me to be sure I took my meds, drank water & ate good food. Breakfast in bed was a mushroom, cheese & spinach omelet with a side of strawberries. Delicious.

I’m feeling zapped physically but my mood is good. While everyone is talking of prepping for the holiday feasts, I’m focusing on relaxing & healing. We were so kindly invited to share Thanksgiving with a friend’s family tomorrow. It’s really nice to have friends here that will think of us in times like these & say hey… don’t worry about cooking, just come share our food & company. (Thank you, Jenn!)

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday tomorrow with family & friends. Missing my family that are scattered all over the country. Love you all.

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An extrovert (me) living with an introvert (him)

I ran across this graphic on Facebook today. It was a complete “aha” moment for me. Yes I have always known my husband was introverted. But as an extrovert… it’s not easy to truly “get” it. This graphic is perfect though and gave me a lot of clarity! If you haven’t seen it, and especially if you are an extrovert that lives with an introvert, check it out!
http://themetapicture.com/how-to-interact-with-the-introverted/

And to my husband: I’m sorry I have this ability to wear you out and “steal” your energy! I will be way more mindful of this in the future. Love you so much! 😀