Monday, March 24, 2014

Falling Apart

I've fallen apart...plain and simple.  I finally feel broken.  I realize that I've been broken all along.  I was just really good at faking it.  I had even convinced myself that I was holding it together...all the while just stuffing every uncomfortable emotion deep down inside.  It's how I survived.  If I had acknowledged all the emotions I felt I would have fallen apart and you can't fall apart when you're busy trying to fight cancer.

In January I went in for a lung biopsy.  A little spot had shown up on my lung and they didn't know what it was.  I honestly handled it really well.  I experience a little bit of anxiety at the thought of having a needle inserted into my lung but I was so eager to just get the biopsy done and find out what was going on that I couldn't grasp the depth of the situation.  I was informed I needed to have someone attend the biopsy with me because complications could include a collapsed lung.  The biopsy was done at the imaging center.  They placed me in the CT machine and took images to locate the spot on my lung.  The doctor came in and asked me how I was doing and asked if I needed any sedatives.  I kinda laughed at the idea.  I mean...I went through an open biopsy under just a local anesthesia.  I birthed three children without pain meds.  I can handle a simple needle biopsy.  What I forgot to take into consideration is that cancer has caused me to be claustrophobic.  It's not an actual fear of small confined spaces.  It's the anxiety that comes from knowing that your body is being scanned to see if there is death growing inside of you.  Well, I refused the meds and they went ahead with the procedure.  I laid down on my stomach in the CT machine.  They scanned me, the doctor numbed up my back right under my shoulder blade with a local.  He inserted the needle and scanned again to make sure he had it lined up in the right place.  They pulled me out and inserted the needle deeper into my lung, scanned again then pulled me out and took 5 samples of my lung.  Let me tell you it is the strangest feeling to have a needle inside your lung plucking away pieces.  They removed the needle and scanned me again to check for bleeding.  The bleeding was minimal and I was so happy to hear this because cancer has it's own blood supply.  Minimal bleeding...could I actually let myself hope for the best?  I had the biopsy on a Friday and had to wait until the following Tuesday for the results.  I was scheduled to go into the pulmonologist's office to receive the results.  I thought those 4 days waiting would be horrible.  I was able to function normally and not think about it at all.  I stuffed that fear deep down and ignored it.  Tuesday morning came around and I decided I would go to get the results by myself...another protection.  I can do this on my own.  If I allow someone to go with me then I will be vulnerable.  I can't be vulnerable and ask for help if I'm going to hold it together.  And I did hold it together...until it was time to leave for the appointment.  Panic...fear...a heavy heart.  My heart was racing.  I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I made the 30 minute drive and didn't remember any of it.  My phone rang and I missed the call.  It was the pulmonologist's office.  I called back immediately but their answering service picked up because they were still out to lunch.  The panic set in even worse.  Were they calling to tell me to bring someone with me because it was bad news?  The only thought going through my head was...I need to be sedated...I need those meds they offered me for the biopsy that I refused...I don't need to be sedated for fear of pain...I need to be sedated for the pain of fear.  I walked into the doctor's office.  The medical assistant took me back to get my vitals.  As we were walking to the exam room the doctor walked past me, paused, gave me a thumbs up and said, "good news".  The rest of the appointment flew by.  I don't remember much about it other than the fact that the spot on my lung isn't cancer.  I walked out of the office and couldn't get to my car quickly enough.  As soon as I slid onto my seat and closed the door I began to sob uncontrollably.  All of a sudden I was hit with every emotion I had been bottling up for months.  I didn't feel happy.  I didn't feel sad.  I felt broken.  I am broken.  I've fallen apart.

It's been two months since that appointment and I haven't recovered.  For over a year and a half I went through a continuous stream of chaos.  I held it together the only way I knew how.  Here I am trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.  I haven't blogged.  I quit following Facebook.  I stopped answering my phone.  It took me sometimes days to respond to text messages.  Figuring out life after cancer has proven to be the biggest challenge for me so far.  I'm supposed to be happy right?  I'm cancer free after all.  I tell myself...just pick up the pieces and move on...get it together.  Apparently it's not that easy.  I've picked up the pieces but they're not fitting back together how they did before.

Last night I logged on to Facebook and saw that another one of my sweet friends who was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy has found out the cancer is back.  Please pray for her.  Her name is Adrienne.  She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer which is the most aggressive kind.  I'm angry.  She's 30 years old, has a sweet husband and her baby who isn't even a year old yet.  They should be worrying about how to treat diaper rash...not having to figure out what treatment can save her life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Resignation

Over the past few months I've been withdrawn, escaping from reality any way I could.  I've done the bare minimum to get by.  I stopped reading email, letting them accumulate to thousands of unread messages.  I started my Christmas shopping about 5 days before Christmas.  I didn't send out Christmas cards.  I put lights on my Christmas tree but no ornaments because I just never got around to it.  I haven't sent out thank you cards from our party in October.  This is totally not like me.   If you came to my house, it might appear like I've been functioning like a normal stay at home mom of 4.  The dishes are done, floors are clean, homework completed, weeds pulled, clean laundry piled sky high waiting to be folded... The fact is that I'm worn out.  I'm only getting done what needs to be done to get by.  I've had a year and 8 months of doctors, surgery, medication, pain...  I'm not discounting the numerous blessings that have occurred during that time as well.  I'm just explaining why I've become withdrawn from the life going on around me.  Maybe it's a little PTSD.  I find an escape where ever I can...anything that will keep my mind off of cancer.  It has worked pretty well, I think.  I have learned how to disconnect from feeling fear.  I have learned how to resign myself to the things I can't control...and I'm completely aware that this is unhealthy for me.  I feel like it's just a part of the recovery process though.  It's just a phase in figuring out this life after cancer. 

Sitting here typing this out, I'm realizing when this whole disconnecting thing began.  I think it began when I got the results from the MRI showing the spot on my lung. Well, today I went for another CT scan followed by an appointment with the pulmonologist.  The spot on my lung has grown from 1.2 cm to 1.8 cm.  When the doctor came in the room to tell me, he said, "The spot has grown so this means we need to do a biopsy.  I'm sorry.  After everything you've already been through you shouldn't have to do this too."  My response... "Eh, whatever."  After I said it I felt like a jerk but I had nothing else to say.  I feel nothing.  I was a little surprised that the spot had grown.  I was expecting it to be the same, smaller or gone completely.  Other than that little bit of surprise, I felt nothing.

The good news is that the PET scan I had two months ago showed no cancer in this mysterious spot.  I asked my oncologist if there was any form of cancer that wouldn't look like cancer on the PET.  He said if I was really old there is one type of very slow growing cancer that doesn't "light up".  So, guess what?  I'm kinda happy that it has grown.  That means it's not this slow growing form that doesn't show up on PET scans.  The pulmonologist also says it doesn't look like cancer to him or the radiologist who examined the scans.  It could still just be infection.  No matter what they need a biopsy to figure it out.  I'm waiting for a call to get it scheduled.  The doc requested the next available appointment and results will come within 3 to 4 days.  Update to come.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Lung Update

I don't have cancer in my lung.  My oncologist called me the same day of the PET scan to inform me of the good news.  I was so relieved that I cried.  So...why has it taken me so long to get on my computer and share the good news?  I am so emotionally exhausted and burnt out on cancer that I am just completely unmotivated to talk about it.

This recent "scare" was not actually as scary as I expected it to be.  I continued to go on with my daily life as if it wasn't even happening.  There was such a huge difference in the way it felt this time as opposed to when I was first diagnosed.  I have become used to the fear that comes along with a cancer diagnosis.  It's just a part of my life now.  I have to think about cancer on a regular basis with blood work, scans, and appointments.  I've done this all before so cancer no longer scares me.  Death scares me though.  There were a couple times where I looked at the kids and the thought of their lives without a mom made me weep.  But I don't need to think about that because I do not have cancer in my lung.  We don't know what it is but I'll be going to a pulmonologist for a consultation.  My oncologist didn't appear to be concerned and if he's not concerned then I'm not concerned.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  I have definitely felt the blessings pouring down on me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hoping its Nothing

Last Monday I finally had my MRI for the bone infection. Two days later I got the results. No bone infection but there is a 1.5 cm spot on my lung. So, today I am off to get a pet/ct scan. Strangely enough, I haven't been thinking about it too much over the weekend. I felt happy and light hearted despite the upcoming test and the possibility of cancer.  I was extremely nervous before I got the results of my blood work. The cancer antigen levels came back very low. Actually one marker was lower than my last blood work 2 months ago. That gave me a little peace of mind but it doesn't mean that this isn't cancer.

Yesterday I was on a meat and greens only diet.  Today I am fasting before the scan. The only thing I am allowed to consume is the plethora of meds. Antibiotic, estregon blocker, vitamin, and today I took some diazepam. Anything to help with the anxiety I know will hit once I get into that machine. I'm already feeling a little loopy from the meds.  Prayers please for clear scans. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Adam Gave Up a Rib... I Guess I Can Too


Infections are a nasty thing.  I've been battling this stupid infection at my mastectomy site for I don't even know how long.  I know the severe pain started when I was going through radiation.  I suspect that the infection started long before radiation back to almost a year ago when I had my expander surgery one week after Zeek was born.  That makes the most sense to me.  That would have given this infection plenty of time to wreak havoc in my body.  I went back to the infection doctor yesterday because the infection symptoms keep coming back every time I go off of antibiotics.  He thinks it's a bone infection.  Bone infections are very difficult to treat.  When he said that, it scared the crap out of me.  Are you saying I'm winning the battle with cancer but an infection could kill me?  He said no but he will need to be very aggressive in treating the bone infection and possibly need to surgically remove the suspected rib.  Zeek and I left his office and I started crying tears of frustration.  I want to be done.  I don't want to lose any more time or body parts.  I've lost my hair.  I've lost a boob.  I've actually had to go through the emotional loss of my breast three times now.  The first time when I had my mastectomy.  The second time when we found out the expander was put in the wrong place.  The third time when I had to have the replaced expander removed because of infection.  Now I might have to have ribs removed?  How much more disfigured can I become?  Yes...poor me...poor me...but today all I can think of is... You can take my hair, you can take my breast, you can even have some ribs... but you cannot take my life... you cannot take my joy.  Cheesy, I know.  I'm feeling the cheesiness... especially today when I'm feeling down.  But I believe in the power of positive thinking, fake it 'til you make it, denial... whatever works to keep me out of the dumps.  Most of all, I trust God with my life.  My suffering is nothing compared to what Jesus endured here on Earth.  I don't say that lightly either.  It's not just the good Christian thing to say.  I truly believe it to the depths of my soul.  My suffering is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 

Well, on to bigger and better things.  The party in celebration of Ezekiel's 1st birthday, my being cancer free for one year, and a housewarming party all together on one big happy day.  October 27th is the day.  I would really love for everyone to come.  I want to celebrate with all of you who have walked with me through the past year and a half.  You have supported, encouraged, loved, and prayed for Ezekiel and for me and I am so grateful for you all.  I sent out a FaceBook invite and sent an evite to those who I have email addresses for but if you haven't received an invite and would like to attend, please send me an email and I will send an evite.  Rebecca.d.raymond@gmail.com (Lisa Gallardo- you have been a huge blessing to me through all your encouragement and love and meals.  I don't have your email address but I would love it if you could come.)

Sunday Zeek and I will be doing a 5k fundraiser for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.  This is where I received all my treatment.  All monies raised will go towards research for clinical trials.  Last year my friend Heidi did this even in my honor.  I was 9 months pregnant and bald and had tears in my eyes as I watched her cross the finish line.  I get emotional just thinking about what it means to me to be able to do the event this year while pushing my precious little breast cancer survivor in the jogger.  If you are interested in sponsoring me, here is the link for my donation page.
https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1075922&supId=392408481

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fitting in

The kids are off to school, the baby is down for a nap, the husband is upstairs working and here I sit in the backyard on my computer with a cup of coffee...it doesn't get much better than this.  I feel so blessed.  How can I not when this is my view.



There's a lot of talk about how to adapt to life after treatment.  I've put a lot of thought into this.  At first I was feeling like I didn't fit in anywhere.  I don't really feel like I belong with any one group of women.  Moms with young children... that's me but what do I really have in common with them other than the fact that I'm a mom?  Breast cancer survivors... that's me but what do I have in common with them other than the fact that we both had breast cancer?  Where do I fit?  That's when I really got to thinking about my situation.  I've never really 'fit in" but have any of us really "fit in"?  We have all had these personal journeys through life that are totally unique.  No matter how extreme our experiences are, none of them are the same.  I believe that I now "fit in" more than I ever have before.  The life experience God has given me has allowed me to connect with people in a new way.  I truly believe that I have a deeper capacity for love and compassion, for empathy and sympathy, for relationships.  I "fit in" with moms who are juggling all the responsibilities of being a mom.  I "fit in" with women (mostly older ones) who are diagnosed with cancer.  Most of all, I "fit in" with people who are going through a traumatic event in life.  Cancer has left me with a new understanding of fear and pain.   No matter what kind of traumatic event has happened, I feel connected to and understanding of that person's pain.  Before cancer I couldn't understand.  A person going through a traumatic experience left me with only these words... "I can't imagine what you're going through."  That is no longer me.  I can imagine it too vividly... the pain and the fear.  And you know what... it is the biggest blessing I have ever received.  I've always believed that pain is a good thing because without it how can we truly know happiness. 

Moving to a new city has been refreshing in the sense that no one knows that I ever had cancer.  It's up to me whether I want them to know.  As far as my neighbors know, I'm just a mom who likes having short hair.  It does get a little awkward sometimes when I meet people and we start talking about our lives and I get to a point in the conversation where I have to make the decision about whether or not to spill the beans.  Sometimes I don't want to shock people with my story.  There's no way around it... pregnant with cancer is shocking.  Conversations can lead to my history with cancer more quickly than you would think.  I'm going to pick up my prescription... I'm having a hot flash..  I had surgery in June... I'm on antibiotic for an infection... I'm not breast feeding... all of these statements that I make lead to one thing.  Yes, I'm on medication to stop my ovaries from producing estrogen which fed my cancer and it causes hot flashes.  Yes, I had surgery to remove my fake boob that I had to get because my real one got chopped off after it was invaded by cancer.  Yes, I have an infection in my chest wall where I used to have a breast.  Yes, I tried to breast feed but I had to start chemo again... and no you can't breast feed while you're being injected full of poison.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not that I want to avoid the topic of having cancer.  I just don't want every conversation to lead there because sometimes it gets awkward.  I also don't want people to see that when they see me.  I want to be known as Rebecca not as "that chick who had cancer while she was pregnant".

The infection is back.  I started antibiotics a couple days ago.  I'm really frustrated by the infection because it makes me worry about my immune system and the fact that it's not doing it's job.  Other than the infection I'm doing really well.  I've started walking the hills around my house.  It's an excellent workout.  It feels good to be able to push myself physically again.  I'm really looking forward to getting back in shape.  I took a picture of myself yesterday after I'd climbed to the top of the hill I live on... please excuse the bed head. 

The big bubba will be 11 months old next week.  He has started taking his first solo steps already.  I can't believe how advanced he is.  He is truly a little miracle in our lives.  I will be throwing a really big party in October.  Everyone is invited...details to follow.  It will be a 1st birthday / 1 year cancer free / house warming party.  So many things to celebrate!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labels

It's been a long time since I've posted.  I've been busy...very busy and I just haven't had the time or energy to update my blog.  I actually started a post last month but then my computer crashed and I lost it.  It was titled "Pride Goeth Before the Fall".  It was about how my hair was coming back in and my eyelashes were so long and beautiful and I was so proud of them and then they all fell out.  Well, the lashes are back again, I'm happy to report.  It's weird that they fell out again so many months after finishing chemo.  Thank God my hair didn't fall out too!  It finally got long enough to need a cut.  Here's a picture of my friend Ember and me with my new hair taken this past weekend while she was visiting from Minnesota.



My new home is 14 miles away from my parents' house.  It feels much further away than just 14 miles.  For the year that I was going through treatment, my husband, children, and I were blessed to live with my parents.  I didn't take one second of that blessing for granted.  Now that we have moved into our home and I am on my own, I feel like a baby bird being pushed from it's nest, learning how to fly, building strength in it's wings, figuring out how to survive.  It's exhausting but I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of it.  I've been so busy with just the every day stuff and on top of that unpacking, painting, surgery, infection, 3 weeks of IV antibiotics, mammogram and MRI on the remaining real boob, another 6 weeks of oral antibiotics, kids starting a new school...etc.  That infection really wiped me out.  I started antibiotics for the infection in June and it finally just cleared up last week.  My immune system is still compromised and my body just couldn't fight it off.  Four different types of antibiotic over two and a half months finally did the job.  I am finally feeling much better.

My little miracle boy turned 10 months old this past Sunday.  I can't believe it...in two months he will be a year old.  He is such an amazing, happy, brute of baby.  He weighed in at 29 lbs at his 9 month check up.  He has mastered the art of speed crawling and is moving on to standing by himself and pushing his little walker around the house.  I'm hoping he continues his trend of reaching milestones early and starts walking soon because he's one heavy little guy and my back is really starting to feel it.  Here he is with my dad this past Saturday.


I really need to start updating my blog more frequently.  There are so many things on my mind that I would like to share but when they start to stack up I don't know where to begin.  There's so much going on in my head with all this cancer survival stuff.  I really don't like the term survivor... It just isn't my thing.  It's a label and I'm not into labels.  Cancer is by far not the hardest thing in my life that I have gone through and I have no intentions of letting it define me.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I so greatly dislike the whole pink campaign.  I am just a person, a creation of God.  A person in awe of God's creation and blessings in my life.  And here is a perfect example of that.  I took this picture of my back yard and a doe and her fawn.  How blessed am I?