Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chemo Treatment #6 - Last one

Last week, I went to Tulsa for Chemo Treatment #6.  My last one!  I will still go in every 3 weeks for another 12 sessions for a different drug called Herceptin, but it is supposed to be easier than the other chemo drugs they have given me the last 6 sessions. I can't believe that it's been 18 weeks!  My hair should start grown back soon.  The Herceptin drug will not block my hair from growing.  I didn't lose my eyelashes or eyebrows, although they did get thinner.

I did get some really good news this visit too.  We had an MRI done and the cancer tumors are actually gone.  The chemo shrunk them like they were supposed to.  After talking with my doctor, the course of action now is a lumpectomy.  This will remove the tissue around the location where the tumors were at.  Then I will have radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.

My surgery is scheduled for the end of July.  I will be glad to get this over with.

I feel good about this option and my doctor's recommendation for surgery.  I did really well through all the chemo, never had any sickness, but just really tired.  Usually the first week after chemo was the worst.

Kasey and I have started walking at night.  Mark takes us down the road and drops us off and then we walk back.  So I have no option to not get back home.  Sometimes when I go out to walk, if I go to the stop sign, I'm like, "It would be easier to just turn around and go home".  This way, I might as well keep walking, especially if I want to get home.  We walked a mile and it took 26 minutes.  I didn't push it too hard.  :)

Thanks to everyone for their prayers and thoughts.  I'm really just living one day at a time right now and it's working pretty well for me.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Silver Dollar City

Mark and Kasey spent the last week at Silver Dollar City Campground in Branson, MO.  Every year at the end of the school year, they try to go on a trip together.  They stayed down there Monday through Friday.  There is a shuttle bus from the campground over to Silver Dollar City, so they would spend several hours over there every day.  Just enough to have fun but not to wear them out.

Here's a few of the pictures they sent me from the week.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chemo Treatment #5 -- One More Left!

Last week was my Chemo Treatment #5, we took Kasey with us to Tulsa and spent a little time in Tulsa afterwards.  We can back home late Saturday night and I was pretty much wiped out on Sunday and just slept and relaxed most of the day.  This last week was pretty easy for me, the boys spent the week camping at Silver Dollar City Campground and going to the Silver Dollar City Park.  I just went to work and came home and went to bed early all week.

This week's treatment was interesting.  I had been contemplating what I was going to do when I have surgery.  I have decided I'm going to do a double mastectomy but do I really want to do reconstruction?  Most of the people I have talked to have done reconstruction and seem to be happy with it.  The whole medical scare with pre-existing conditions really made me think about whether I want to do reconstruction or not.  It's a painful process, they put expanders under your skin and inject them with something to make the skin stretch.  This continues for a while until you get to be the size you want to be and then they go in and remove the expanders and insert the saline implants.  Again, another surgery to have this done.

I have never been comfortable with the thought of having something foreign like that in my body. What if I have problems with them?  What if they leak in ten years?  It's just a really hard decision.

The alternative is just to go flat.  Boring.  But no additional surgery.  I looked at a lot of pictures on the Internet.  I called a friend that had done this and she was very happy with her life without breasts.
The interesting thing was that Mark would never really tell me what he thought I should do.  He just told me that he would support whatever decision I made.  I had finally thought about it a long time and told him that I was thinking of not doing reconstruction.  He said, "that's really what I would rather you do, I don't want to see you go through all the reconstruction, it's just not worth it".  I was really surprised he felt that way, but that made me just love him even more.  :)

When we went to Tulsa, I talked with my care provider and asked her what she thought.  She said that they don't really like to comment on that, they want the patient to make their own decision.  I told her I was thinking about not doing reconstruction.  She said that was what she always thought she would do also if she went through this.  She said that she just doesn't like the additional surgeries.

I also got an ultrasound this time to check my heart.  One of the chemo drugs is hard on my heart, so they like to keep an eye on it.  I'll find out the results of that next time, but I really think it will be fine.

I met with my surgeon and talked to him about the options I had.  He really has thrown a wrench in my plans, but a very good one!  He told me that he would like me to get an MRI next time I go to Tulsa.  I can't feel the two primary spots that I had when I first started this treatment.  The chemo has shrunk them down to the point that they are not detectable.  He said the MRI will tell him a lot about what the next steps will be.  It's possible that the spots are so small now, that I could have just a lumpectomy and not the full mastectomy!  Wow!  That is some amazing news.  I am not going to get my hopes up too high about this and will just wait until my next visit.

Please pray that the results are good for the lumpectomy. That would be such a blessing.  With a lumpectomy, they will have to do radiation though.  My chances of having the cancer come back after the lumpectomy and radiation are about 10%.  Having a double mastectomy and no radiation will make my changes of the cancer coming back at about 10% also.  I know there are no guarantees with anything, but this would be really encouraging.

On the way down to Tulsa, we stopped at the McDonald's restaurant above the tollway.  Kasey thought it was neat.

After we checked into our hotel, we went downtown Tulsa and took a picture of this tower.  It's supposed to be the Center of the Universe.

We were waiting for one of my appointments and Mark and Kasey were playing Solitare.

Kasey being a silly boy.  This is one of the dressings they use to put over my port when I'm getting chemo, the nurse didn't use it and gave it to Kasey to play with.  

Mark and Kasey went to get me lunch while I was getting chemo, it takes about 5 hours or so.  It's amazing how fast it passes.  These two love birds were outside the window and stayed there for probably 10 minutes.  It was a pretty amazing moment.

On Friday after we were done with chemo, we went to a Putt-Putt Golf place.  Tulsa Cancer Treatment Centers of America has lot of free stuff for cancer patients.  We got free golf here.  It was a lot of fun and a really nice cool day.  

Then we headed to the movies.  We watched Captain Underpants.  We were really impressed that this movie theater had tables in front of the chairs.  Sorry about the bad picture here!

Saturday, we headed to the Tulsa Zoo.  It was a really nice zoo, with lots of animals.  I was really careful not to get too tired.  They had benches all over, so we would just stop and wait a while, then start back again.

They had about 6 Eagles at the Zoo.  They had all been injured in the wild and were not able to defend themselves if they were released back in the wild, so the Zoo takes care of them now.  I think they have a pretty good life.

Kasey picked up this instrument from the gift shop.  It makes a nice sound, nothing that would drive us crazy.

It was a great trip and I'm glad Kasey got to see what I go through when I go to Tulsa. He was impressed with it all.  He enjoyed staying at the hotel and eating at the cafeteria.  He's just such a happy kid, he is so much fun to have around!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cool Cancer Shoes for Me!

Aren't these the cutest shoes ever?  These were made by Lexi, she is the daughter of a friend, Amanda. Mandy's husband Mike used to work with me at DT Engineering and they were also neighbors.  I was sad when they moved.  :(  

Lexi is so talented, I have watched her mom post all of her artwork on Facebook over the years.  Lexi has made shoes in all sorts of designs.  These were ones I received from them.  I love them!  I was so excited to get them and they were such a cool surprise.

I wore them Friday for my treatment in Tulsa and everyone talked about them.  The Bible verse is from Jeremiah 31:25 "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."  

Thank you Lexi for my shoes!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chemo Treatment #4 - Two More Left!

Friday, I had Chemo Treatment #4, I have two more to go, 6 more weeks.  The last 3 weeks between treatment #3 and #4, were a little harder.  The second week, on Monday, I had a lot of heartburn.  I called in to Tulsa and they said I needed to go to the Emergency Room because it felt like chest pains.

I went to the ER and they did an EKG on my heart and a CAT scan of my lungs, everything looked good, so it was heartburn.  The Herceptin that I am on is really hard on my heart, so they like to keep an eye on it.

This time, all of my blood counts were good, except for my Red Blood Cell count and my Hemoglobin.  The chemo lowers those and there really isn't much we can do about it.  The counts were still good though, no cause for alarm.  That does make me really tired.  I have a hard time walking and get winded easy and then my legs really get sore, because I can't get enough oxygen to my cells.

I'm still working and doing pretty well there.  When I come home, I'm pretty wiped.  I usually go to bed early.  But I haven't gotten sick, so that's still good.

I talked to the chemo nurse about when my hair would grow back.  Since I have to take 12 additional sessions of Herceptin, I figured it won't grow back until after I get through those, but she said that most people's hair starts growing back when they stop the chemo meds (after sessions 5 and 6).  So that made me feel better, I might have hair by winter.

Here was my treat after chemo, Andy's Frozen Custard from Springfield.  My favorite is the Caramel Pretzel Crunch.  It's so good!   Mark usually gets Raspberry Heath Bar.

We went to Sam's Club in Joplin on the way home and when I was there a lady stopped me and asked me if I was going through cancer treatments.  Her husband had colon cancer 10 years ago and she wanted to pray for me.  She was so sweet and talked to me quite a while and then said a prayer with me.

My friend Barbara made me some more hats, this is the whole set that she has made for me, I wear them all the time.

Another friend made me this one, Felicity.  I wore it to a soccer game when it was really cold.

My cousin Jeannie sent me these books.  She sends me cards about every week.  I've gotten several cards from different people, it's been so nice to get them and I save them all.

I got this cookbook from my cousin Rita.

My friend Margie gave me a bunch of stuff in some really cute bags, I didn't get a picture of those. She made me a big container of lasagna too.  I will probably cook it up tomorrow.

I also got a big sack of Pulled Pork from my friend Stephanie.  We've been eating on it all weekend too.

It's amazing how sweet people are, I love all my friends to much.

Some other random things from this week:

We went to an awards assembly at school this week, Kasey got a perfect attendance award.  He's had perfect attendance for 4 years in a row but they didn't recognize him for that, just for the 4th grade. We're so lucky he is never sick.  I think it's cute the kids in the background.

For some reason, I have been collecting stress balls -- any time I go to a trade show or somewhere where they have SWAG, I try to grab these.   I have some pretty cool ones, I really like the IT guy and gal.

I wanted Mark to make me a shelf to put them on in my office.  He thought he would just buy one already made and found one kinda like this one on Craig's list, but it was about $450.00.  He talked the guy down to $350, but decided that was too much.  If you know my husband, he can make anything, especially when he sets his mind to it.

After he told me this I went out to the shop and one of the guys had some scrap lumber on his bench. I asked him what he was doing with them, he said he was just going to take them home to burn them but I could have them if I wanted to.  So I brought them home!  Mark took the boards and used them on the back and then bought some smaller pieces for the shelves themselves.  We painted them a color that we used on our trim at work called Peppercorn.  When he painted that on the shelf, it was just too dark so he wiped it off and it looked perfect.  I just love it!  I love it even more that he made it.

My first day after chemo, I feel pretty good.  I got Kasey and his friend, Brady to pick up trash on our road.  They picked up a full trash bag of stuff.  They had a good time picking it up and hopefully, will learn not to litter.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chemo Treatment #3 and Hereditary Test Results

Today was Chemo Treatment #3 at the  Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa.  Mark and I arrived in Tulsa on Thursday evening, checked into the hotel right there in the hospital and then went down to the Clinic to give blood.  This makes it nice for Friday when I see the doctor, they have all my lab results ready for them.  CTCA also has a web portal that I can login to and view my lab results myself. I can even download the results so I can put them in an Excel document and graph them in a chart. That's the nerdy things I like to do.  

Things improved this week:
  • My protein counts were up, so I did good with the protein drinks.  Not sure I ate any better, although I did have a lot of peanut butter sandwiches in the morning with my Vitamin D pills.  
  • My other counts were still good, a few were down, but not anything alarming to the doctor.
  • The results of my hereditary test came back this week.  I don't have the printed copy yet, but talked to the genetic doctor and the 26 points that they test all came back with no heredity factors, so that was really great news!
I had gained a couple of pounds, but that is to be expected because of the steroids that they give me in my IV.   I need to try to walk more.  That's been really hard for me.  At work, I get up and walk up the stairs to the shop.  When I do, my legs get really tired and I'm short of breath.  I still do it though but just rest.  When I get home from work, I'm drained and just don't do much at night but rest.  I think that's good for me, so I'm not too worried about that.  But what I am going to start doing is when I get up in the morning, when I'm feeling good and not so tired, I'll walk on my street for at least 15 minutes.  Mark's going to be my coach and keep me focused.  It might put me a little late for work, but I can always make it up at lunch time.  I am not very happy about gaining weight, but it makes me feel better to know that the medicine is doing that to me and I certainly want to keep eating.  

This is the chemo room, it's a private area.  They have a lot of these rooms in the infusion center, I think close to 50 of them.   

Do you like my hat?  My friend Barbara made me 5 different hats and I love them all.  She has more material to make me some more and I bought some fabric at Joann's this week too.  I really didn't like the wig I had and just decided to wear these.  I am going to get a different wig in maybe next week and I'll try it to see what I think.  

Here's the view out the window.  Not all the infusion rooms have the window view, it's really nice.  It was pouring rain in Tulsa Thursday night and Friday.  

The rooms all have TV's in them with movies and TV channels.  We watched a movie called Lost and Found.  I would score it about 6/10, but was entertaining.

Here's Mark in the picture, taking my picture.

It takes about 4 1/2 to 5 hours to get all my chemo meds.  They give me an anti-nausea medicine, Benadryl, Pepsid and the 3 chemo meds.  The Benadryl makes me sleepy.  The last thing they do is put the Neulasta on board device on my stomach that will give me that medicine on Saturday evening.

It was pouring when we left the hospital, Mark got the car and picked me up under the awning.

It rained all the way home on us too.  It sure is nice to be home.

All in all it was a good trip and I'm feeling pretty good.  The last 3 weeks after Chemo #2, were easier than the first 3 weeks after Chemo #1.  I wasn't nearly as tired and learned how to manage my sleep and tiredness better. No sickness with either week, which is great.

Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes, I keep hearing them and they mean so much to me.  I have received a lot of cards and emails from people I haven't heard from in a long time, it's really great to get them, they brighten my day.

We had a guest speaker at a meeting at work this week from the Lebanon Community Cares Program. DT Engineering is starting a payroll deduction program for employees to give to this program.  All the money stays locally to not-for-profit agencies.  I signed up to give and I know many of our employees signed up.  They only ask for $1 from each employee per pay period.  We are so blessed. I feel so humbled by all the help I have received, once I get through this, I'm going to find more ways to give back.  This is a life changing experience for me and I know those that have been through this, understand it in ways only cancer survivors understand.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kasey's First Tinker Crate - Science, Engineering and Awesome!

I signed Kasey up for a TinkerCrate, it's a monthly subscription for kids interested in Science and Engineering.  Since Kasey's dad is an engineer and I love computers, I thought it would be a great thing for him to start doing.  It's $20 a month to have a box delivered to him with a different project every month.

This month's box was a Spin Art kit, complete with everything to build the kit.  Plus a little electronic breadboard with resisters.  I had as much fun with it as Kasey did.

He had no idea I had ordered it for him!  Here's what it looked like when he opened up the box. Everything was in really nice neat organized bags.

This is the blueprint -- how to put it all together.

Here's some creations we made today.  I'm definitely glad I subscribed to this and looking forward to more boxes!  I know Kasey and I will have a blast with them.

I could also see where we could use these for science experiment projects at school.

I did a Periscope Video on Twitter of one of our creations if you want to check it out.