Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Me day & Fertility

I've never looked forward to a Monday as much as I did this last Monday. I started by sleeping in until 9:30am! Then I went to the Teal Center for an hour massage and after I met my mom for lunch. After lunch, I got a mani/pedi at my favorite place, Ivy Nails. They are always so nice to me. And the owner gave me a gift certificate for a free pedicure! Wahoo! Cancer is good for something!! I'm kind of disappointed in myself to wait until I have cancer to force myself to take a day just for me and get pampered. Everyone needs that every now and then, cancer or no cancer.

Tuesday we left work early and met with a doctor at Shady Grove Fertility. I wasn't sure what to expect. The doctor was SO nice. Because of my special circumstances he fit us in at the end of their day. He went over all of our options and what chemo could potential do to my fertility later on. He explained about freezing eggs or embryos and how all that works. I made an appointment to go today for blood work and an ultrasound. When we got to the car I looked at George and said "maybe we just shouldn't do this" and he said "if its meant to be, it will be" and I said "exactly".

We want kids. Right now. But maybe there is a reason that this is happening this way. We asked the doctor about using a surrogate (well gestational carrier) and its expensive. If we had someone volunteer to do it (ahem) then of course we would jump at the chance right now. But its complicated. There are laws that people would have to qualify with and more importantly, asking a friend to carry our child for us for 9 months. That's a HUGE commitment. (But seriously...we have a volunteer sign up sheet ready!).

Right now we are leaning towards not freezing eggs or embryos unless surrogacy was involved. I feel like if its not in the cards right now, or even later, then there's a reason. Maybe in a couple years there will be a child that needs a home and we will be able to provide that home to them. I don't know. The hardest part is that it all has to be decided like in the next 2 weeks. I would have to start the retrieval process the week after my surgery. After we left last night I cancelled my appointment for today but was guilted into going in tomorrow. It can't hurt to have the blood tests and ultrasound to know what I look like now and then we can see again in 3-5 years when we are ready to have kids again.

Oh and the other part is, using my frozen eggs would be the last resort. We would still have to try to get pregnant on our own before we would use the eggs. So we would spend $6300 to freeze eggs PLUS however much it cost per year to store them and then we might not even use them. Plus, I kind of feel like I need to keep all the eggs I can for the future! You only have a certain amount and once they're gone, they're gone!

The funniest part to me was when the doctor was talking about freezing eggs vs embryos. He told us that if anything happened to our marriage we could potentially be a in a custody war over our embryos. Isn't that insane? But if we just freeze eggs then they're mine no matter what. Who would have ever thought about that?

I'm pretty surprised at our semi-decision. We can still change our mind...until right after my surgery. We have a short window to do this between surgery and chemo so we have to know for sure by September 18th. I don't want everyone to think we are being naive and thinking its going to be as easy to get pregnant after chemo like it was with Mackenzie. I know it either will be easy or it won't be. If its not then at that point we can look into adoption. I was panicking about this a couple weeks ago and now I feel totally at peace. I'm sure God is looking over me closely. I keep hearing "everything happens for a reason" in my head over and over.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good Grief

I've been a teary person this week. I'm not sure what it is. Its nothing specific. One of the stages I guess. But last night I couldn't keep the tears in my eyes anymore. Something about your 2 year old telling you she wants a brother and watching NY Med while your husband reads a book about having a wife with cancer really gets to you. Its none of their faults either. It just happens.

I've always been the type of person to put on a brave face and try to keep my emotions hidden. I'm not sure why that is. And sometimes I still do. I mean I have cancer, I'm allowed to cry about it. Today at work I was just so sad. I couldn't shake it. And I knew exactly what I needed. I needed to visit my Nana.

This probably seems extremely weird to some of you. Going to a cemetery to visit your grandmother makes you feel better? For me it does. I can sit there and tell her everything I'm feeling and just cry and cry. I do have weird cemetery behavior though. I like to sit in front of her side of the grave on the grass (sorry Major Charles Elmer Jr...I'm usually sitting on his feet...that sounds so weird!). Usually I see people standing up at graves but today I saw about 3 people sitting in tailgating chairs. I tried to take a picture of them because they were having a full on party. They brought balloons. The grave for the person they were visiting wasn't even there yet. I'm glad people can go there and be happy too. I also don't like other people around me. I like to go alone and I don't like other people to visit their relatives any where in the radius I'm in! So selfish!

Anyway, I like to go there because its SO quiet and peaceful. Even though they are doing major construction, all you hear is birds chirping and bugs flying by you. It seems like when I feel my saddest there the wind always starts to breeze and I can just feel her hugging me.

I heard this line in a song on the radio on my way back to work from the cemetery and I thought it so applied to me: "Smile on your face even though your heart is frowning" (Yes its Justin Bieber). Don't get me wrong. Mostly I have a smile on my face AND in my heart. But this sadness this week hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly I think its just the emotional stress of having cancer finally coming out. I'm not in any physical pain or had to do any thing physical for it yet but the stress and emotions get to you every once in awhile.

The weirdest thing about it to me is that I didn't even have any cancer related things to do this week. I went a whole week without seeing a doctor! Next week will be jammed packed but it was nice to have a week off. Next week on Monday I booked myself a massage and then will have lunch with my mom and then get a mani/pedi. I CANNOT wait. I can feel knots in my shoulders! Tuesday we are going to meet with a fertility doctor. I'm mostly nervous about the financials for this one because insurance companies aren't so kind to us cancer patients in terms of fertility. Then Friday I have my pre-surgical physical and blood work done. Even though I have to work late next Friday and then Saturday, I'm looking forward to next weekend. George and I are going to hit the outlets! Just us! I know they will be ridiculously crowded when we go (Hello back to school shopping AND Labor Day weekend) BUT I love to go to the outlets and we can do a little beach shopping and post-surgery shopping for me (I see a lot of button up shirts in my future!).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Surgery Date

This week was emotionally and physically tiring. After our excursion on Tuesday I felt so sick the rest of the week. Today is a little bit better. For some reason it doesn't seem fair to have cancer AND poison ivy and then cancer AND a cold (in the middle of the summer).

On Wednesday, when I was home sick, the plastic surgeons office called me and told me that she heard I wanted to "reschedule" my surgery date. I went on to explain that I all ready have a vacation planned and I am going on it no matter what. She (Cami) told me that they didn't have any appointments for surgery next week but they could do the 30th or when I got back, the week of September 17th. Cami told me that I should be fine to have surgery on August 30th then go to the beach on September 8th (yeah right). She wasn't understanding that August 30th wasn't an option for me. Sure they could all show up that date but I would not be there. I kind of laid into Cami about how no one has called me to schedule a date before I went in there myself to schedule one. She said they've been working on but its so hard to schedule surgery with 2 doctors AND the operating room like I'm the first person to ever have this done. But how come no one asked me my schedule??

I then called the breast surgeons office and spoke with Cari who said the surgeon wanted to see me within the month and anything after "wasn't safe". Well way to scare me to death! Cari told me that the breast surgeon could schedule me for next week on Tuesday and that she would speak with the plastic surgeons office and call me back that day.

So then Thursday when I STILL hadn't heard back, I called the surgeons office and spoke with Cari who told me that the 2 doctors spoke to each other that morning at length and she would get back to me when she knew what they said. Super. FINALLY my doctor called me. I'm so glad she personally called. She told me that the surgery date was up to me and if I wanted to have it done next week they would figure out a way to do it. BUT she warned me that going to the beach after surgery probably wouldn't be the fun beach trip I would hope for since it's possible I would still have drains (gross) and I would have limited activity. She also told me that the cancer that's in my body on my surgery date will be the same cancer that's there today so it doesn't really make a difference if its before or after my trip. From the beginning she's told me that having surgery within 2 months of diagnosis is ideal and we'll be within that 2 month mark.

I felt SO much better after I talked to her. I let her know that the staff at the 2 offices were making me panic. I didn't understand why everyone was rushing all of the sudden when nothing happened for like 3 weeks! Surgery is set for September 18th at a so far unknown time. Honestly, the time doesn't really matter to me. I just REALLY want to get this over with. But I'm really happy that I'll have the chance to enjoy the beach and pool and can pretend for a week that I don't have cancer! Plus I have a ton of appointments to make/go to before my surgery date (another physical, fertility, blood draw, physical therapist) and now I don't have to totally rush. Although they do have to get done in the next 2 least the physical and blood draw do. Luckily doctors offices are closed on the weekend and I can relax this week and deal with cancer again on Monday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another great day

Today was a great day. We dropped Mackenzie off at daycare and went to the hospital for my plastic surgery appointment. This one went A LOT better than the last one. I really like this doctor a lot. I feel like he explains things to me like I'm in an adult but one that knows NOTHING about medicine
(because I don't). The doctor did say "so what day is the surgery" and I said "I have no idea because no one will decide on a date or call me". He checked with the scheduler girl and asked me about August 30th. I turned it down. It either has to be next week or the week of September 17. We are going to the beach September 8th for a week and I don't want to be down there with drains and recovering from surgery. I don't understand why no one is really working on my surgery date...sometimes I feel like they care too much and other times I feel like they forget about me.

After my appointment, George and I went to Tyson's to spend some time together and get my hair cut. We had a delicious lunch at Coastal Flats and did a lot of walking and window shopping. I was hoping to go to the Paul Mitchell School for my cut but they were booked (no wonder...$13 hair cut! sign me up!). We did a little more shopping then I went to the usual Zoe Salon for my hair cut. I must be in need of some serious relaxation because I almost fell asleep twice while she was cutting my hair.

During my reading of the Pink Ribbon Diet book, the author recommended a book called "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy". I picked that up at Barnes and Noble today. The author, Geralyn Lucas, really wore lipstick but its also a metaphor for making sure you feel comfortable in your own skin. I'm so excited to read it. When we got home, there was package from Amazon with another book, "Having Children After Cancer", that I asked George to get for me. He also ordered himself a book called "Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (And Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond". When I saw that George ordered himself a book, I immediately started tearing up. I was really happy he found this book and ordered it for himself. I know this isn't easy at all for him either.

Of course, one tear led to another and ended with Mackenzie hugging me and asking if I needed a kiss. Sometimes thinking about how this is effecting them (and everyone else in my family) is too hard. Maybe that sounds selfish but I get the most upset thinking about how this is messing up their lives. I'm sure none of them would put it like that and I know that none of us signed up for this but it sucks that they all have to be effected by this too.

I was reading my friend Beka's Caring Bridge journal the other day (Thank God for her...even though of course I wish neither of us ever had to experience cancer) from the beginning and the part that stuck with me most when she said she really had to "mind her mind". And that's the truth. When I keep myself in the moment or day this is so much easier to deal with. When I let myself go there (or there or there or there) then the emotional pain of this cancer becomes unbearable. I literally have to just stop thinking. Of course its usually not that easy.

I was originally going to title this post "when good days go bad" but I thought you know what- Fuck you cancer. You are NOT going to ruin a perfectly good day with your what if's and your awful behavior. I am an entire being. You are a 2-3 cm dot in that being and you are NOT going to win over this entire day or my life.

And so I'm happy. Because today, I am relatively healthy, I have a beautiful daughter, an amazing husband, wonderful family and friends and a great life. And those are things that cancer cannot take away from me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cancer Free Weekend

We had a great weekend. Totally cancer free! And by that I mean, I totally forgot about it...for the most part. Friday after work we took our little butterfly face painted baby to Tyson's to ride the train and play at the playground and have dinner (and do a little shopping of course). It was a lot of fun! We love going to Tyson's and it always wears us all out!

Butterfly riding the train
Saturday we went to swim class and then to Target. After lunch the 3 of us had a nap. That NEVER happens. But it was so wonderful! After our nap we took Bailey to the dog park. Mackenzie was in HEAVEN with all the dogs...and of course Bailey was too!

Sunday we took Mackenzie to the Arlington County Fair and she rode her first horse pony! I wasn't sure if she would like it or not but she LOVED it! We rode some rides and ate some fair food. After the fair, we spent some time with and ate dinner with my family at my parents house. Wonderful end to a family filled weekend.

Mackenzie and "Mike" the pony.

Most weekends are very busy and go by so fast and we don't really get to enjoy what we are doing or who we are with. This weekend was so much fun and it was mostly just the 3 of us which almost never happens.

This week I'm looking forward to my appointment tomorrow at the plastic surgeons office (and maybe get a freaking surgery date) and making an appointment with the fertility doctors. I need to know all of my options and I don't want to make a rash decisions because I'm upset about having cancer.

I just spent the last hour or so looking for support groups. I think I'm finally ready to start talking to people who are going through this now and understand exactly how I'm feeling right now. I really want to talk to people in my age range who are facing the same issues I am facing (fertility, chemo, mastectomy, ect). I'm excited to find a good group for me and get it started! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hope restored

Today was a much better day. I really love my surgeon and we had a great talk. I like that she clearly spells out all of my options and stands by the decisions that I make. I made another huge decision today. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. I'm not under the delusion that having a bilateral mastectomy will 100% guarantee that I will NEVER get breast cancer again. But it does give me a huge sense of hope for the future. For me the pros out way the cons by a million. I'm very young and I just want to look and feel normal. Although my genetic test came back negative as of August 1, 2012, in a year/2 years/5 years/10 years from now a new genetic test could show that I DO have a gene mutation and I would have to have a mastectomy then anyway.

I think the reason I was so upset about the oncologist appointment is because she didn’t understand my life and my feelings. I know I am going to be okay. I know that I will get through this and eventually life will move on. Telling me that I'm young and that I can have kids way in the future and all that made me realize I have to mourn the life that I was planning. I am truly blessed to have a great life now with a beautiful family to include my incredible little girl. And I don't think that I'm wrong to want more. Who doesn't want all of their hopes and dreams fulfilled in the timeline they picture? But for some reason, my timeline has been altered. Maybe I'll never know why or maybe it will be clearly spelled out for me one day.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference." I'm slowly learning that this journey is about acceptance. It’s not easy to accept the things that come towards me but if I make the decisions that I think are right for me and remain positive about my future then eventually everything will fall into place for me and my family. Sometimes I'm confused as to whether I'm truly accepting things OR if I'm in complete denial about what's going on. I'm constantly balancing in between the two and I think that's completely normal and a coping mechanism that my brain has developed to keep me sane.

Luckily I think I am done with doctors appointments for the week. I was going to meet with a fertility doctor tomorrow but I'm just not ready to do that yet. I have 6 weeks between surgery and when chemo/pills would start to complete anything fertility that I would need to do so I'm comfortable to let my brain wrap itself around the thought of going to a fertility doctor. I think all thats left is to get my surgery date (UGH WHEN IS THAT GOING TO GET SCHEDULED!!!!) and to have some more blood work done and then have surgery. I'm SO ready for that to be over with!!

Monday, August 6, 2012


I actually wrote an entire post this morning in between my (failed) MRI appointment and the oncologist that was so hopeful and happy. Then I went to the oncologist and all my dreams were shattered. This journey all started because we want more kids. That doesn't change because I have cancer. Although cancer is trying to change it for me.

My oncologist told me that I probably will need chemo. I wasn't surprised by that news. I was surprised when she told me that I would have to wait FIVE years before getting pregnant. To me that is worse news than being told I have cancer. In five years, I'll be 33 and Mackenzie will be 7. I always imagined my family would be complete by then. I never wanted to have a 7 year old and an infant. And honestly, I still don't. My oncologist gave me a couple numbers to fertility specialists to call. On top of all its other amazing side effects, chemo also ruins your reproductive organs.

I knew seeing Mackenzie after my appointment would be hard because it would remind me why I want to have more kids. Not because Mackenzie isn't enough; I love that girl with my entire being. But I can't imagine a life for her without siblings. Mackenzie saw me crying as I was telling George about my appointment and she said "mommy is big sad". Later, I was pretending to sleep on her floor and she was in her bed (she thinks we sleep in her room all night but we tell her we'll be back when she gets tired and she falls asleep soon after we leave), and she saw that I was crying again (its been my theme for today) and she got out of her bed to hug me, rubbed my back and said "that's okay mommy". I mean who wouldn't want more of that?

The hardest part of all this is that we really don't know anything. Until surgery can tell all the doctors exactly how much of the lump is cancer and how much is precancerous and so on and so forth. I've been told that my cancer could be stage I or II, I may need chemo and/or radiation or not and I may be able to have kids in 1 year or 5.

Tomorrow I meet with my surgeon again and will not leave there without a set date for surgery. I just need to get this over with. I should have picked August 8th when I had the chance.

But I'll end this with some good news. I finally tracked down my genetic test results. There are 2 parts to the genetic test: BRCA and BART. Sadly right now BART is not covered by insurance so those results are still pending. But BRCA 1 and 2 are NEGATIVE!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Oh wait...I have cancer?

I've kind of forgot that I have cancer because I haven't seen a doctor since Wednesday. That's so unlike this journey so far! Tomorrow will be a fun filled day of MRI and meeting the oncologist. I was going to get my blood drawn too for my pre-surgery labs but I think that my labs from less than a month ago should still be good. Also I hate to have my blood drawn so any excuse not to have it done is fine by me. If the surgeons tell me I have to have it re-done then I will, of course, but until then I'm stalling!

I'm also going to stop by my surgeons office to get the results of my genetics test. They told me Friday that the lab is holding it hostage (apparently insurance only wants to cover the BRAC part and not the BART part) but the lab told me that the surgeons office has had the results since WEDNESDAY! Needless to say I was not happy on Friday when I found that out. I'm not sure where the miscommunication is coming from but I'll find out on Tuesday when I see the surgeon for my appointment. Hopefully we will also finalize the surgery date on that day. I kind of wish I had just picked August 8th and been done with it. Half of me wants it tomorrow and half of me wants it...umm...never?

I was also a little premature making my cancer binder because the great folks at Young Survival Coalition send you a cancer binder for free. Its pretty great. There is almost too much in there but that's better than  missing information. I'm all about anything I can get for free using the "cancer card" (hello free house cleaning!). I've gotten some great presents from friends and family recently too. T-Shirts (thanks Gretchen!), goodie bag full of fun things (thanks Christy!), flowers (thanks Mom and Dad), a beautiful gardenia bush (thanks Ryan) and most importantly a brand new Coach purse (thanks HUSBAND!). Who knew Coach made a breast cancer bag?!

Some how in the midst of all that's going on, I still managed to throw my husband a surprise 30th birthday party. I'm so thankful that everyone kept it a secret because I've been planning it for SO long! We all know that on top of binders, I LOVE party planning! It was a huge success. I was asked a couple times after my diagnosis if the party was still on and I said ABSOLUTELY! I'm not letting cancer stop me from celebrating a huge milestone for my family. If I ever had a question about if we are supported by a great group of friends and family, the question has been answered. We couldn't ask for more support. George was so happy and enjoyed his baseball/Yankee themed 30th birthday party!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Case of the what ifs

Late last night as I was watching the Olympics I started googling different things. I need more information about the benefits (if any) of getting a double mastectomy vs removing just the cancerous side. Well as you know you can't search the internet without finding out the worst case scenerio for everything. I started to panic and the what ifs started filling my head. What ifs are very dangerous. Because usually (and hopefully) whatever you are what ifing isn't going to happen to you. But for me, once the what ifs start, they are very hard to stop.

That's probably why I was up way past midnight and probably why I was a bucket of tears this morning at the plastic surgeons office. I'm not really sure why but something about being at the plastic surgeons office made all of this so real. Not talking to the surgeon twice, not seeing my cancer on a giant screen in mammogram AND ultrasound form and not going through all the tests. Probably because I have NEVER considered having plastic surgery in my life. I just don't get why people would want to have surgery when they don't need it. I cried in the waiting room before I even saw the doctor. And then as I was getting my blood pressure taken. I pulled myself together before the doctor came in. Not because I thought I couldn't or they would judge me but because I needed to for me. I need to make unemotional fact based decisions.

The plastic surgeon was nice. We went over my history and health and then talked about the different procedures I could have. Basically it's implant vs DIEP (google's very interesting). Basically DIEP takes tissue from you stomach to make a new breast. Sounds great right? Free boob job AND tummy tuck!  Well it has downfalls too. Very long surgery (7ish hours), longer hospital stay (3 nights vs 1 night with implant), longer recovery (at least 4 weeks before normal operations vs 2 weeks), re-routing blood vessels, and the possibility that it might not even work. Also since we still don't know if I need chemo or radiation it might not even get done until 3 months later.

I changed my appointment with the surgeon from tomorrow to Tuesday because I wasn't able to have my MRI done on Tuesday. So Monday I have MRI at 7am, get blood drawn for per-surgery labs and then seen the oncologist at 10. Then go to work. Luckily it's my late day that day. I'm waiting also for genetic test still and also for the plastic surgeons office to call to schedule the surgery.

I just want the surgery over with. For some reason being under anesthesia scares me so much. I guess because you have no control and are unaware of what's going on. And I get thats the point of anesthesia. But the build up to surgery is just going to make me more and more anxious I think. There are so many questions that can be answered with surgery and I'm ready to know the answers!