Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Day of 2012

I have to admit...I'm kinda disappointed that the world didn't end last week. I was really looking forward to not having to deal with cancer anymore. Just kidding...I never expected the world to end nor did I want it to.

Here I am sitting at the cancer center...receiving number 5 of 12 of what I'm hoping is the last chemo treatment I will receive for the rest of my life. My dad came with me today. My sister, Cyndi is my usual chemo companion but she wasn't able to make it today so she asked my niece Zoey to go with me. Zoey planned to go with me until her plans changed yesterday so she asked my dad to go with me. I hate that I have to have someone come with me to treatment. I don't like that I have to take up people's time. If it was up to me I would come by myself and not impose upon anyone. I know they don't mind coming with me and I think my sister actually enjoys having the opportunity to spend time with me. I don't like that they feel obligated. The fact that they have to pass me off from one person to the next makes me feel like a burden. It makes me feel small and helpless. I can't just go by myself though. The 30 minute drive along with the neuropathy and possible allergic reactions and the Benadryl are not a good combo. I can't argue my case of going by myself and win.

My dad just took this picture of me and informed me that it is for my blog. Not a great picture but it's the real me right now. Dark circles under the eyes...tired. Hat on. Since I shaved my head, I haven't gone out bald like I did last time. I feel more insecure this time. I don't know why. Well...it's also been pretty cold so the hats are more necessary too. I crocheted the hat myself by the way. :)

It's New Year's Eve. This is such a busy time for my family. Yesterday John and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. I'm 33 years old and have been married for 12 years...wow! More than 1/3 of my life. Tomorrow Daphne will turn 6 years old. My baby girl...my New Years baby. I am 33 years old with a 9 year old, 7 year old, 6 year old, and 2 month old...12 years of marriage...one and a half boobs and no hair. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

I never got around to sending out a Christmas card this year. I can't even blame cancer or chemo brain. The real reason is because I can't send out a card with a picture of the family unless the picture is complete with my step-son in it too. We never had the opportunity to take a family picture while he was with us which means no Christmas card. We did go out and take some pictures without him. I'll post some of those pictures later.

If you get the VC Star, check out page 3A of today's paper. The photo of my family from the article they ran in October is one of the picks for photo of the year for 2012. I love that photo.

http://www.vcstar.com/photos/galleries/2012/dec/31/top-stories-2012/58069/


Friday, December 21, 2012

Bald... Again...

I thought I had prepared myself to be bald again.  There are just some things you can't prepare for.  I was definitely not prepared to mourn the loss of my hair again.  I thought it was old news...been there...done that.  Not so for me.  I am sad to have to be bald again.  Even though I didn't like my short hair at all, I loved the fact that I was no longer looking like a cancer patient.  Tonight I shaved my head again and as I was shaving it I found myself welling up with tears.  So silly... to get choked up over hair... especially when I had so little of it.

I haven't updated my blog in a while.  It takes energy and I have to prioritize what I spend my energy on.  This past week I have spent my energy on hand washing, disinfecting, and keeping all the sickies away from me and Zeek.  We both stayed healthy until I got my immune system back on track.  Last Thursday and Friday I got my Neupogen shot to boost my immune system.  I had my blood work done on Friday afternoon and my counts were back up.  Sunday I got a sore throat and a little bit of nasal congestion.  So I have a cold but I didn't get it as bad as everyone else and it wasn't bad enough to prevent my treatment on Monday.  Three taxol treatments done.  Nine to go.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Falling Through the Cracks


Below is the email I just sent to my oncologist.  Amanda is the Physician's Assistant that I had my appointment with on Monday.  She makes me feel a complete lack of confidence.  On Monday when she told me my counts were too low to get treatment, I responded with, "Oh good.  That means the chemo is working, right?"  Her response to me, "Not necessarily."  And that was it.  Those are the kinds of answers I get from her.  No explanation or depth to her answers.  She's lucky she doesn't have her own practice because she wouldn't be able to retain any patients after their first visit with her.    

Dr. Kass,

I was told by Amanda at my appointment on Monday that I should hear from someone on Tuesday about my Neulasta/Neupogen injection.  I didn't hear anything yesterday, so I called and left a message.  I didn't receive a return phone call so I called again today and was informed that I needed to be checking with the pharmacy.  I called the pharmacy and they said they never received a prescription for me.  I called Lydia and she spoke with Amanda and somehow the prescription didn't go through to the pharmacy on Monday.  Lydia said she would call in the prescription.  I then called the pharmacy again a short time later to confirm they had received it and they informed me that the prescription was for a dose that doesn't exist.  I just received a return call from the pharmacy stating that the pre-authorization is required and they're sending it back over to your office.  

I'm feeling very frustrated and like I was not informed correctly at my appointment on Monday about what I needed to do in order to get this going.  Two days have passed without any action at all because somehow the prescription never went through.  I feel as if I have slipped through the cracks and needed to bring this situation to your attention so that I can feel confident that it will get taken care of.

Thank you,
Rebecca Raymond

So...obviously I still haven't received my injection to boost my immune system.  I'm so angry I cried (that's what I do when I get really, really mad).  When I meet with my oncologist this coming Monday I will inform him that I will no longer have appointments with Amanda because I have no confidence in her.  

Please keep the prayers coming.  I am so nervous about getting sick.  I am becoming a little neurotic.  I visualize germs everywhere I go.  I'm getting so bad that when I wash my hands and then dry them with a towel, I then use hand gel afterwards just in case the towel was harvesting any bacteria.  Hopefully my craziness pays off.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Chemo Delay

This morning I went to get my third treatment over with.  I arrived at my appointment to find out that I can't get treatment today because I am neutropenic.  My immune system is basically non-existent. This really is a very unfortunate set back because everyone is getting sick around here and I now have to wait for my body to recover before I can get back on track with my treatment.  A one week delay doesn't seem that bad but this process has already been so drawn out.  Most people receive chemo treatment for five to six months.  Mine is being drawn out over nine months.  That's a really long time.  Well, I guess my doctor is working to get Neulasta or Neupogen injections approved by my insurance company.  I didn't know my PPO insurance had to approve for me to get a shot of medication that will stimulate my bone marrow to start producing more of those good blood cells that were killed off by the chemo drugs.  Apparently the insurance company needs to have the final say on whether or not my health is important.  It terrifies me to think what will happen when Obama Care goes into effect and the government gets to make these kinds of decisions.  Right now the government gets to hold the insurance companies accountable.  Who holds the government accountable when they're in control of socialized medicine?... Survival of the fittest?  Anyhow... I claim chemo brain on that little health care tangent... or maybe I'll refer to it as common sense. Ha!  Can you tell I'm a Capitalism loving conservative?

So... as the days go by I can feel myself falling further and further into this foggy and dull state of mind.  At the beginning of this whole journey I had a sense of humor, hope, energy.  Now I just feel like I'm too tired to feel much of anything.  Sometimes I just sit down, rest my chin on my palm and stare off into oblivion.  It's already been almost 8 months.  I found the lump/mass on April 18.  That's when I stopped exercising.  I had the biopsy, moved, had the mastectomy, placenta previa, bed rest, chemo, delivered a baby, expander surgery, chemo...etc.  Those are a lot of good excuses as to why I couldn't exercise... all of them legitimate.  Now I'm ready to start exercising again and I can't seem to motivate myself to get up and just do it.  I'm tired... so tired.  I feel like crap... all flabby and chubby from gaining weight during the pregnancy and not using any muscles for the past 8 months.  

A couple days ago I came across an article on the drug tamoxifen.  This is the drug I will be taking after I'm finished with treatment.  It is a hormone therapy drug for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer... my cancer.  The article mentioned a decrease in the mortality rate if the drug is taken for 10 years rather than 5 years.  The mortality rate drops from 20% to 18%.  Wow!  I have avoided these kinds of statistics.  I have a 18 - 20% chance of death within the next five years.  I am not prepared to hear that.  I am not prepared to think about that... and yet... here I am being forced to.  

I will stop with the blog here because I have vented all of my nasty negative emotions and I'm ready to let it go and move on.  I will end with something positive though.  My little chemo baby is fat as can be and he is starting to get really interactive.  He is working really hard on cooing and gets a couple out here and there.  I love this age where it seems like you can actually watch the daily changes.  I love baby smiles and Zeek gives me plenty to brighten my day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Just Keeping On...

Zeek - 5 weeks old

I love Christmas!  I love the lights, the smells, the music.  I love the awe and wonder in my kids' eyes... sending Santa letters (Yes, they all still believe in Santa), seeing where the elf on the shelf has moved to, baking cookies, buying presents, drinking a peppermint mocha (only on occasion though because those things are so stinkin' sweet and I really do prefer my coffee to taste like coffee...cream, no sugar).  Despite the fact that I love Christmas, I'm having a hard time really getting into the Christmas mood.  I just don't have the energy.

Being pregnant with cancer was a lot easier for me than being a new mom with cancer.  It was easier to take care of myself when I was doing it for the sake of the little boy who was growing inside of me and needed a healthy mom for the sake of his own health.  It was easier to ask for help and to not feel guilty for receiving help when it was for the sake of my unborn child.  But when it's just for me... I can suffer through it... I can be stoic and act like things aren't affecting me as much as they actually are.  Here I find myself so tired... both physically and emotionally.  In the past six months I have had two surgeries, four months of chemo, and delivered a baby.  My body is tired.  My emotional state is not only harried by the natural emotional roller coaster caused by the postpartum hormones but it is also completely warped by the fear and exhaustion that comes from having cancer.  I like the little bubble that I have created for myself.  It's a safe little bubble where I don't think about cancer and what could happen.  But then sometimes I step outside of that bubble and I hear about women whose cancer has metastasized and their fear becomes contagious.  I don't want to live in fear.  I don't want cancer to have that power over me.  Cancer can't win that battle. I won't allow it.  I will live with hope and faith.  

My battle with cancer is not over but it feels like people think that it is over because I've delivered my healthy little bundle of joy into this world and got good news with the PET scan.  I got a clean scan and I was so relieved but what the scan means is that the cancer that was in my breast did not metastasize and start growing tumors in my liver or my bones or anywhere else.  Treatment is still just as vital as ever.  Cancer was in my breast and spread to my lymph nodes.  The lymph nodes could have sent cancer cells traveling throughout my body, ready to attack anywhere at any time.  

I just got home from number two of my final twelve chemo treatments.  The side effects were pretty intense this week.  Neuropathy is a common side effect and I was expecting it but there is really no preparing for the unknown.  I have been experiencing extreme throbbing pain and weakness in my forearms and shins.  It comes and goes at random times throughout the day and night.  It hasn't been debilitating in any way but it does concern me at times.  I get nervous when I'm holding Ezekiel and it happens... especially at night when I'm tired and not functioning well anyways.  I also get nervous when I'm driving because sometimes I have a physical response to the pain.  It comes on so quick and strong that all of a sudden I have to focus really hard on what I'm doing.  I tell you, chemo and newborns are not a great combination but boy, am I in love with my little guy and so happy to have him to focus on.  My kids bring me so much joy.  I can't imagine what it would be like without their beautiful little faces to brighten my day.

Daphne adoring Ezekiel






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Steroids and Sleep

I'm in so much of a fog that as I sit here, I can't even think well enough to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to be typing.  Sunday night I got only a couple hours of sleep because of the pre-chemo steroids.  I went and had my blood work done as soon as the lab opened on Monday morning to make sure my potassium levels were okay for me to start chemo.  I went to my appointment at the cancer center and they hadn't received the results of my blood work due to some sort of delay.  I ended up sitting around for an extra two and a half hours while they hounded the lab for my results.  The results finally came back and confirmed that I am not in kidney failure.  Yippee!  Pump me full of steroids, give me benadryl in preparation for an allergic reaction, and let the chemo flow.  I left the cancer center and went straight to an appointment with my plastic surgeon.  He wasn't very concerned about the infection on my half breast.  But he did inform me that I am definitely stuck with only half a breast until I've completed chemo.  Lame... but so much better than the swollen looking pectoral muscle that the other misplaced expander caused.  Monday night I got one hour of sleep.  Those steroids make it almost impossible to sleep.  Every time I finally started to fall asleep my sweet baby boy would wake up and he was then for the first time in his short little precious life exposed to curse words being spoken under my breath.  I seriously felt like I was going crazy because I was so exhausted and delirious and then I felt so extremely guilty for being frustrated.  Then I felt like maybe a dirty diaper might be appropriately placed on top of my husband's face while he was snoring away through the baby's crying.  That last thought made me feel a little better even though it didn't end up happening.  After two nights of almost no sleep, I finally crashed yesterday at about 3 o'clock and slept until this morning.  I did wake up to hang out with Zeek for a couple hours at midnight and then had this weird episode of chills and nausea that woke me up again early in the morning.  

It's going to be interesting this time around with the chemo.  I'm starting to get concerned about how I will handle it.  New baby and chemo... so far they don't seem to go together very well.  Christmas and chemo don't seem like they're going to go together very well either.  I wish I would have started my Christmas shopping a little sooner.  

Anyhow... we're off and running.  Every Monday for 11 more weeks I'll be making my way over to the cancer center for the cancer killing drug... my friend... Taxol.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chemo Again?

Tomorrow I'm supposed to be starting chemo again.  I'm not sure it's going to happen though.  Friday when I was getting ready to go to bed, I noticed that my new half breast is inflamed and red with an infected area where the plastic surgeon fills the expander.  It was Friday night when I noticed this, so the only option for treatment was to go to the ER.  Fortunately, I got in and out of there in an hour.  I went in at 10:30 pm, explained to the doctor that I'm supposed to be starting chemo on Monday and I just need a prescription for the infection.  The ER doctor was concerned about the infection and wants me to follow up with the plastic surgeon ASAP.  He said that the expander might have to be removed because of the infection.  Seriously... if I had that surgery and went through that pain to just have it removed again... I will be so disappointed.  It would also cause a problem for me with my prosthesis because I already got rid of it.  I gave it to away so it could be donated to a woman without health insurance.

Today I got a call from my oncologist regarding my pre-chemo blood work I had drawn yesterday.  My potassium levels are extremely high.  We're assuming that there was a mistake with the labs because I feel fine and if the lab results are accurate, it would mean that I'm most likely in kidney failure.  So... tomorrow morning I have to get my labs done as soon as the lab opens so that my oncologist can get the results before my 9:30 am appointment.  Even though we're under the assumption that it is a mistake, it still scares the crap out of me.  I can't stand the idea that there might be something else wrong with me.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chemo Brain

This morning on the way to my appointment at the cancer center, my husband and I stopped for coffee.  I was driving so John could get some work done.  He stayed in the car while I ran in to Starbucks to get our coffee.  As I stepped out of the car, I realized that the car had started to move again.  Oops... I didn't turn off the ignition or take it out of gear and put it into park.  Fortunately I was quick to react and hopped back in and got my foot on the brake with an inch to spare before my car went bumper to bumper with the car parked in front of me.  How embarrassing!  I looked over at John and said, "Oops... I claim chemo brain!"  I started to think about it.  It could be the chemo brain (which I've heard lasts for up to 5 years after treatment... LAME!) or it could be the new mommy brain.  So many excuses to choose from.  I will go with a combination of both.  My brain does not work well at all... period.

We had rain this morning.  It was my favorite kind of morning as we were driving up the 101 to Santa Barbara with the dark clouds over the ocean and a hot cup of coffee in my hands.  It's in those moments when I'm awed by creation that I love and in those moments I feel extra grateful for this life I have been blessed with.  

My appointment was simple.  They went over the side effects of the chemo... pretty much the same as last time.  It's funny how different this pre-chemo appointment was than the last one.  I'm not afraid anymore.  Before I had chemo before there was so much fear involved.  I am so afraid of the unknown and since I've been through it already, I no longer find anything to be afraid of.  


I'm thinking about dying my hair.  Never in my life have I dyed my hair.  I had highlights a couple of times in my late teens but that's it.  I think that since they said there is a high probability of my hair falling out again, I need to do something entertaining with it while I still have it.  Speaking of hair... Zeek and I were having some tummy time together today and my husband took a picture.  It was of the back of our heads.  Zeek has my cowlick.  I didn't know I had one until now but it's so fun to see that he has a characteristic so distinctly from me.

Here is a picture of me with my half inch of hair and some more of Zeek and me.

Half Inch Hair
Sweet Baby Ezekiel - 3 weeks old


Tummy Time



Zeek and Mommy Cowlicks

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Half Boob

For the past couple weeks I have been in a constant haze.  Whether from my sweet new baby, sleepless night fatigue, or a pain medication fog... these past weeks have just been a blur.  I'm finally starting to feel like I have the smallest capability to think clearly.  There was a point last week where I thought I had completely lost my mind.  I was reading a post on Facebook and I had the strongest urge to comment on the post with this crazy irrational baby talk/Dr. Seuss inspired statement.  I don't remember what it was but I wish that I did so I could be entertained by my moments of insanity.

I'm so eager to get started with my treatment again.  I don't like waiting.  I want to get things going so I can get them over with.  I have a full head of half inch long hair and the longer it grows, the more irritated I'm going to be if it all falls out again... although... I must say that I hate my hair right now!  I'm looking awfully butch (excuse the very not PC term).  I'm feeling so extremely unattractive with my just had a baby body, my butch hair, and my one breast... oh and I definitely need to mention the drain tube I've had protruding from my side for the past two weeks.  I have good news though.  Today the drain was removed.  More good news... I have one and a half boobs.  The plastic surgeon not only removed my drain today but he also started to fill the expander.  It was seriously one of the most gratifying experiences I've had in a long time.  I keep pulling my shirt away from my chest to look down at my new half boob.  It's pretty awesome.  I'm just hoping that it's able to be completely filled before I start my next round of chemo.  I've been without a breast on the right side for so long... I don't want to end up stuck with uneven breasts for the duration of my chemo.  By the way, I was so excited about my new half breast that I thought about posting a picture on the blog but then decided it would be inappropriate. I do need to post a picture of myself with all my half inch hair but I've only had one picture taken recently and I looked like crap with swollen/tired eyes and a look of confusion on my face.  I'm pretty sure I was on a high dose of pain medication at the time.  Thank God that I'm no longer in need of the pain medication.  I didn't like being dependent on it to function.

My little Ezekiel is still the perfect baby.  He eats like a Raymond.  Which means that he eats a lot!  Sometimes it seems like I can actually see him gaining weight on a daily basis.  John and the kids have to ask for a turn to hold him because I'm holding him at almost all times.  I just can't get enough of the little guy.  He is so sweet.  Every time I look at him I think of what a miracle his little life is and I feel so blessed that God entrusted him to me.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to go over the details of my next rounds of chemo.  I'll find out about all of the side effects and I'm guessing that's when I'll get my start date.  It will feel good to get back into the cancer center and get under the watchful eye of my oncologist.  There is a sense of security that being treated provides.  I want the security of knowing that everything possible is being done to make sure that this cancer is gone and stays gone forever.  Give me drugs.  Give me radiation.  Give me whatever will work to give me a long and cancer free life.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

PET Scan

Today I finally had my PET scan.  Monday when I scheduled it I was so nervous.  As the week went on, I got tired... really, really tired.  The past couple of nights, Ezekiel hasn't been sleeping well.  I'm pretty sure it's gas caused by my inability to burp him well when I'm half asleep at night.  I have been so tired that I think I forgot to be worried about the PET scan.  Babies are so wonderful.  I never thought I'd be thankful for sleepless nights but I would take this new mommy fatigue over cancer patient anxiety any day of the week.

I left the house this morning knowing that I would be injected with radioactive chemicals that would be in my system for several hours.  Which means I can't be around my kids until they are out of my system this afternoon.  My three older children kissed me goodbye and my sweet baby boy gave me lots of sweet little smiles. I don't know what the deal is with this little guy...  I have never seen a newborn smile like he does.  He smiles all the time.  I'm kissing his sweet little face and telling him I'm going to miss him today and he's just sitting there smiling away... what a little blessing he is!  


Once at the Cancer Center, I received my injection and waited for an hour for the poison to penetrate my system.  I dozed off several times.  If they had just given me a pillow, I could have had a really nice little nap. They took me to the CT machine, I laid down with arms raised above my head, they sent me into the machine and I battled sleep for the next 45 minutes.  I thought I was going to have a panic attack a couple different times because I was so worried about falling asleep and moving and ruining the test, that every time I started to doze, I would catch myself and my heart would start racing.  I would then have to focus on my breathing... in through the nose... out through the mouth...  Finally the test was over and they technician came in and told me they were going to run the scans by the doctor to see if they needed anything else from a different machine.  I was having such a hard time not assuming the worst... that they had seen something and needed more images.  The technician came back and said the images they had were enough and he sent me on my way.  

Within twenty minutes of walking out of the Cancer Center, I got a call from my oncologist.  My phone was still on silent, so I missed the call.  I checked my voicemail and the message said, "The results from your PET scan are GREAT!"  I heard this and immediately started crying tears of relief.  I called them back to make sure I heard correctly.  Yes!  The scan was negative!!!  I cried again.  

I have an appointment with my oncologist on Monday.  We will go over the remaining treatment.  12 weeks of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation to kill any possible cancer cells that could be still floating around.  I am no longer a cancer patient.  That may not be the way the medical field views me... but it's how I view myself.  I don't have cancer.  It's gone from my body.  Those cells that could be floating around...  they'll be gone soon too!

Monday, November 5, 2012

PET Scan Scheduled

I called my oncologist's office this morning to find out the status of the PET scan they said they were going to get scheduled this week.  Apparently they hadn't done it... which doesn't make me feel very confident.  They faxed the orders over Nuclear Medicine and I called to schedule the scan.  This Friday at 7:30am.  The only instructions are no carbs or sugar for the 24 hours before the test and fasting for 6 hours before.  As soon as I got off the phone from scheduling the appointment I was overcome by fear.  I am terrified.  How strange to have nothing change except for a test being scheduled...but it can make such a huge difference with my emotions.  I told my husband that I'm afraid and he told me that he is too.  This afternoon my sister Julie asked me what comes next and I told her I have the PET scan scheduled for this Friday.  She asked me if I'm afraid.  I said yes and she said that she is too.  The fact that other people are afraid for me makes me even more afraid.  I guess this week I will be learning patience.  The waiting is the true challenge for me.  I am still choosing to believe that I have no cancer in my body.  I am claiming it right now and I am going to take control of my feelings and choose to not allow this fear to have any power over me.  I trust God with my life... whatever may come.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Expander Surgery #2

Yesterday I had my surgery.  My sweet baby boy is one week old and I spent 8 hours away from him.  It was horrible.  The anxiety of being away from him was worse than the pain from the surgery... although I've had heavy doses of narcotics to help with the pain and there isn't any drug in the world that could make me feel better about being away from my little guy.

The surgeon was running over an hour late.  I was in pre-op, prepped and all ready to go before the surgeon even got there for the surgery scheduled before mine.  That was really frustrating because I was sitting there bored stiff doing the math in my head on when I'd be able to go home.  They took me in to surgery about an hour and 15 minutes late.  I woke up from surgery asking how long I'd been in recovery and how quickly they could move me to post-op.  I seriously felt frantic to get out of there.  Everything moved pretty quickly.  They sent me to post-op and I asked what I needed to do to get out of there and they said I needed to drink something and keep it down and use the restroom.  I chugged a bottle of water and went to the bathroom got dressed and was out of there. I was instructed not to lift anything over 10 lbs.  Perfect!  Zeek only weighs 8 lbs.   

Sometimes I start to get really irritated that the only reason I needed to have this surgery is because the first plastic surgeon screwed up.  My new plastic surgeon (Dr. Pickart, who I highly recommend) makes it very evident how negligent my first plastic surgeon was.  My new expander was only about 1/6 filled.  He will slowly fill it over the next few weeks.  I go in for a follow up appointment this Friday and hopefully will get the drain removed.  I was so disappointed when I found out I needed to have a drain again.  Drains are so disgusting and inconvenient.  

I've been taking my pain meds every four hours (as prescribed) which is excessive but I'm taking them because I want to hold my boy and this morning I wanted to go to Ephraim's soccer game and I want to be able to sleep.  So far the pain from this surgery seems to be just a fraction of what the pain was after the mastectomy.  Thank God!

Ezekiel is a perfect, happy and expressive baby.  He smiles all the time in his sleep.  The entire family adores him.
Ezekiel - One week old

All 5 Raymond kids - Ephraim, Sebastian, Tobias, Ezekiel, and Daphne

Ezekiel - One week old - smiling for Grandpa while mommy was having surgery

Monday, October 29, 2012

After the Baby High

I have a 4 day old precious little boy.  He is the most beautiful and sweet little guy.  We are all so in love with him.  He continuously smiles in his sleep and yes, I know this because I can't take my eyes off of him.  He had his first appointment with his pediatrician this morning and he is perfect with the exception of his weight loss and jaundice.  They're going to keep an eye on his bilirubin levels for now but hopefully it'll resolve itself within the next couple of days.

I have been breastfeeding every two hours since he was born but I am producing nothing... not even the tiniest bit of colostrum.  I am so disappointed.  I desperately wanted to be able to nurse for the three weeks before I start chemo again.  It's an emotional loss for me and today I get weepy every time I think about it.  Today I gave up trying.  My one remaining nipple is too sore and Ezekiel has lost interest in nursing from a breast that is not producing.  This morning when John and I left for the appointment with the pediatrician, I realized that we didn't bring a bottle for him.  I've never had to carry a bottle in my diaper bag.  I'm going to have to get used to this and I don't want to.  Breast feeding was so convenient.

Today I am so emotionally and physically drained.  I am overwhelmed.  I called the plastic surgeon this morning and they scheduled my expander surgery for this Friday.  I have to take Zeek in for his circumcision tomorrow morning and they'll check his jaundice again at that time.  I have a pre-op appointment on Wednesday.  I called my oncologist to let him know I delivered and I'm ready for my PET scan to be scheduled and to get chemo scheduled again.  The nurse called me back and said they'd get me in next week for the PET scan and then I'll meet with my oncologist to go over the results and determine the treatment plan based on those results.  What?  Things could change... this is too much.  I just had a beautiful little baby.  I don't want to think about this right now.  I want to sit and stare at my beautiful boy.  I don't want to worry about what they'll find with this scan.  I don't want to hear that there's a possibility that things might change because they might find something.  I just want to pretend that cancer doesn't exist.

Maybe I just have a little bit of the post baby blues because I feel so fragile right now.  I'm irritated that I gained so much weight during the pregnancy because I know one thing that would make me feel better right now is if I could fit into a pair of my pre-pregnancy jeans.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Miracle Baby

Just in case you didn't believe that God is responsible for the perfect creation and survival of my little miracle baby, a few extra twists were thrown in to add extra awe and wonder to the situation.  His name is Ezekiel James Raymond.  Born October 25, 2012 at 7:05pm.  8lbs 4 oz and 20 1/2 inches long.  I was sure that his name would be Luke, but once he was born, it was evident that he was not a Luke.  He is Ezekiel because it means "Strengthened by God".

I had my natural child birth with the exception of cervidil to induce labor and zofran at the very end  of my labor to help with the nausea. No pain meds at all.  So those endorphins are working their magic.  I thought my labor was going to last forever when I was checked at 4 pm and still only dilated between a 3 and 4.  My doctor was in surgery all day and finally arrived at around 6 pm.  By that time I was exhausted and dreading the thought of having my water broken and the contractions getting any more intense.  She checked me and I was dilated to a 9.  I cried from relief when she told me.  My doctor left to go change into her scrubs for the delivery and the nurses prepared the room.

I have had quite a bit of pride when it comes to my child baring capabilities.  This is my third natural child birth.  I thought it was going to be a breeze but as I'm recalling it now, I'm trying to hold back my tears.  When Dr. Ramos came back from changing into her scrubs, she told me to go ahead and start pushing.  She said there was just a little lip of the cervix that needed to be pushed aside as I tried to push his head out.  Dr. Ramos applied pressure trying to push that lip aside and it felt like that extra little bit of pressure was a huge amount of force fighting against every effort I made to push the little guy out.  I felt like I was fighting a battle that couldn't be won.  I said out loud, "I can't do it."  Even when I said it, I knew I didn't have a choice and that I had to do it and I felt so silly for saying that I couldn't.  Dr. Ramos then informed me that he was coming out sunny side up.  I guess that explains all the leg numbness and lower back pain.

So I finally pushed his head out and the umbilical cord is wrapped around his neck twice.  John was so panicked that he grabbed the cord to help the doctor remove it from the baby's neck.  I pushed him out the rest of the way and the nurse put him on my chest and I started sobbing.  They I heard Dr. Ramos say, "This is the luckiest baby!"  She repeated it three times and then showed me the knot in the umbilical cord.  I don't know if it awes everyone else as much as it awes me.  My miracle...my boy who has already survived so much.  I feel so blessed to be entrusted with his little life.  This is why he is Ezekiel.  He is our little miracle who is strengthened by God to survive and to thrive.

I'm crying from joy in this picture.

The knot in the umbilical cord
The proud brothers and sister
Tobias, Ephraim, Daphne and Ezekiel Raymond



Thursday, October 25, 2012

D Day - Part 2

It's 4:30 and I feel like this day will never end.  The nurse just checked me and I'm dilated to a 4. Contractions are coming regularly every 2 minutes for the past several hours.  I'm waiting for my OB to get out of surgery and break my water so I can hopefully progress some more.  The pain is getting extremely draining but well worth it for the end result.

It's funny how physical pain can force you to be more emotional than normal.  I'm getting irritable and anxious.  John is taking a nap and my mom is on her way.  I kept telling her to wait until I had progressed more but she wants to be here and honestly, she provides a comfort and security that no one else can.

I'm a little bit sad that this is it for me as far as pregnancy goes.  I will never experience this again.

I've had to stop typing 5 times already to allow myself to relax through the pain.  So, the next update will be a picture of my little boy. :)

D Day - Part 1

Under normal circumstance, I am completely against induction.... but here I am at the hospital getting induced.

I had my 39 week appointment at 3:30 yesterday.  Baby boy is still head down, I was dilated to a two and ready to meet my sweet baby boy.  I haven't been sleeping well for quite a while because of the lower back and hip pain.  I never experienced this with my other pregnancies. It is very unenjoyable. My OB (Dr. Ramos) stripped my membranes and said she could have me come into the hospital at 8 pm and start cervidil and hopefully I would deliver in the morning.  This idea worked well for me because I wanted him to be born on the 25th anyhow.  Ephraim and Tobias both are born on the 25th of different months and Daphne, John and I are all born on the 1st of different months.  Today is also my parents 44th wedding anniversary, my brother-in-law's 38th birthday and my nephew, Caleb's 10th birthday.  So, why not just add one more event to the day?

We got to the hospital at 8 pm and by 10, I had the cervidil in place and consumed some ambien to get some sleep.  The ambien only worked for 5 hours because I've been up since 3 watching the monitor showing my boy's heart rate in the 130's and my contractions registering small but frequent.  These contractions need to kick it up a notch so I can meet my boy.

John is here with me being the dutiful husband, forced to sleep on a sofa that is way too small for his 6'8" frame.  He is very excited to meet this little boy too.

John sleeping on the sofa across the room.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Waiting

I am waiting... waiting to have a baby... waiting to start my next rounds of chemo... waiting to have scans done... just waiting.  It's hard to find something to blog about while I'm just sitting around and waiting.  I like to plan and I like action so this part of the process is a little bit frustrating for me.  

I had an appointment with my OB on Wednesday.  My little guy has turned.  He is now head down and in the correct position for a natural delivery.  I figured that he would get ready in his own timing.  I'm just hoping he cooperates and stays head down.  For the past day I've started experiencing a lot of pain in my pelvic area.  I think he has dropped and is putting lots of pressure on my girl parts.  He's getting ready and I can't wait to meet him.  When I see him I will finally be able (or forced) to decide on his name.  

I planned to have another surgery after delivery to remove the botched expander and have a different one placed (this time in the correct place).  I was told I would need to have the breast skin stretched before radiation in order to salvage that skin and not ruin it's elasticity.  I met with the new plastic surgeon and he is recommending a TRAM flap reconstruction.  This is where they take skin, tissue, and a muscle from the stomach and reconstruct a breast from that.  I'm not really sure what to do now.  I will have 3 to 4 weeks after the baby is born to nurse and the idea of taking one to two days off of nursing in order to have surgery is unappealing.  For right now I've decided to have the surgery after the baby is born to replace the expander in the correct position so at least I have options and later I can decide whether or not I want to mutilate the rest of my body in order to create a second breast.  

It's been so strange since the article about me was in the paper.  I have strangers coming up to me and telling me that they read the article.  It's awkward at times because I don't know what to say.  When someone says, "I read the article about you in the paper", do you say thank you?  Sometimes I just say, "oh" and then laugh uncomfortably.  Sometimes I say, "what gave me away, the bald head and the belly?"  

I can't really say I have a bald head anymore because my hair is growing.  It's not a full and thick head of hair but it's not just patches of growth anymore.  I was surprised because I had been told it usually takes a couple of months for the hair to start growing back.  What to do with my hair is another dilemma I've had to contemplate.  Am I just growing it back to have it all fall out again during the next rounds of chemo?  I think I'll just take my chances and hope it doesn't fall out again.  I'm looking forward to having hair again and not looking like a cancer patient anymore.

Daphne and me today at my nephews birthday party.  See the hair?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cancer Run

Last night John and I were talking about my situation and he said, "I don't think you have cancer."  I said, "I agree.  I'm choosing to believe that it was all cut out during the surgery.  I think I don't actually have cancer at all anymore."  I was thinking about this statement and wondering if I should put it on my blog because I still get the "what ifs".  What if I'm wrong and after the baby is born the scans show that there is more cancer?  What if...?  Well...if I'm wrong then I'm wrong...but I believe I'm right.

Today was so wonderful.  We went to Montecito to watch my friends do the 5k/10k run in my honor.  As I stood there watching them cross the finish line, I couldn't help but have tears in my eyes.  It was such an awesome experience!  I felt so blessed and inspired by all these ladies.  I wonder if they know how they have impacted me with the gift they gave me today.  I'm telling you...it's impossible to feel down when surrounded by people constantly going out of their way to lift you up.



Below is a picture of me and my two friends, Heidi and Erika.  I met them my freshman year in high school...almost 20 years ago.  They both have been such a blessing to me.  Right before I lost my hair, they went hat shopping for me and today they blessed me again.  I lost touch with them for several years but they have come back into my life with gusto!  I am so appreciative of them.


My kids and my nephew ran the 1 mile.  I was so proud of them.  My 5 year old little girl ran the entire mile with my sister Cyndi by her side. She stopped twice for a quick drink of water but other than that she didn't walk any of it. Both Ephraim and Tobias went back and forth passing each other with the traditional competitive spirit our family can't seem to contain.  Ephraim finish first and when Tobias finished and received his medal, he asked if it was okay to keep running more laps around the track.  He ended up running a full two miles.  He finished just before his name was called in the drawing for tickets to the L.A. zoo.  Tobias was excited when I told him that next year we could run the 5k together.  Caleb, my nephew, walked most of the mile with a painful knee and finished his last lap running.  I was so proud of him for finishing even though he was the last one to finish.  It was a great day!






Thursday, October 11, 2012

Breech Baby

This morning I went in for my weekly OB check up.  37 weeks... officially considered full term!    First came the non-stress test.  Little boy was very cooperative today.  He was actually too mellow for Dr. Ramos' taste.  She had me drink some cold water to get him going.  Once the cold water was consumed, he passed the test with flying colors...even though my bladder was a little stressed. After the non-stress test, I went in to the exam room where my uterus was measured and then she pulled out the ultrasound machine.  So, I thought I'd had my last ultrasound but I was wrong.  Dr. Ramos did a quick scan of my stomach and then moved up to just under my right ribs and she said, "Oh honey!  He's turned the wrong way.  His head is all the way up here and his bottom is down by your left hip!"  She looked so concerned but all I could do was laugh!  She looked very stressed out and I felt like I was consoling her when I said, "Well, you just have to turn him then, right?"  So she did.  It was not an enjoyable experience having her pushing around on my stomach.  I've been feeling nauseous ever since.  I never thought he would have changed his position this late in the pregnancy.  He was head down at my appointment last week.  He was head down when I left her office.  I'm pretty sure he's moved and has his head up by my ribs again.  The little monkey!  Dr. Ramos says I have to go to the hospital at the first signs of labor so if he needs to be rotated again that she can do it while it's still early enough.  She also said that if my water breaks that I need to get there immediately because the umbilical chord could fall out.  My response to that was, "Can't you just push it back in?"  Sometimes ignorance is so wonderful!

On Tuesday, my mom's friend Pam came over to take some maternity pictures of me.  She's wonderful!  We spent so much time talking.  Pam is a cancer survivor and we are so similar in our views on life and cancer.  It was so nice to spend the afternoon with someone who understands me.  She e-mailed us a copy of the first photo she took of Daphne with my belly.  When I showed the picture to Daphne, she said, "I like that picture because it's my style with my mad face."  I can't wait to see the rest of them!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Overwhelmed

I've always been a strong believer in community.  Maybe it comes from being raised in a big family and then it was reinforced when I worked for a non-profit that had a huge community building outreach.  I am completely overwhelmed by the love and support of my community... my family, my friends, my church, my children's teachers and classmates, my children's sports teams, and the whole Ventura community.

Today I have felt an increase in energy.  I feel loved and most of all, I feel peace.  This can be such a lonely experience but when surrounded by a community that supports and encourages me, it's impossible to feel anything other than gratitude.  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

I was told shortly after I was diagnosed that there are three essential things that would help me survive cancer.  Those three things are faith, family, and attitude.  Fortunately, I have been blessed with strong faith.  I trust the Lord with my life...period.  I believe I will be healed.  I am blessed with a supportive and loving family.  My attitude is something I've struggled with all my life.  I've been known to have an Eeyore personality... you know.... poor me.  Fortunately about two years ago, I learned a huge life lesson.  My perspective determines my path.  I can choose to dwell on one negative or I can choose to be grateful for the multitude of positives.

I like being overwhelmed.  I am so overwhelmed with positives in my life that there isn't any room to dwell on the negative.  There isn't any room to feel sorry for myself while I am feeling so much appreciation for all the support I've received.  Thank you... to all of you!

My friend Heidi, is running a 10K this weekend for the 20th Annual Walk/Run for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.  Her team's name is the Becky Dahls.  She is doing this event in my honor.  (Yes another blessing)  This event will fund research at the location I am being treated.  My three kids and my nephew Caleb will be running the kid's mile.  The event takes place on Sunday.  Heidi's goal is to raise $1,000.  So far her team has raised $855.  If you have a desire to contribute to cancer research, here is an awesome opportunity!

Donate here:
http://www.ccsb.org/participant/team/The%20Becky%20Dahls/



Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Article

 


Here is the link to the newspaper article from the Ventura County Star.
http://www.vcstar.com/news/2012/oct/06/rebecca-raymond-copes-with-pregnacy-and-breast/#comments



It was pretty strange to read about myself in this morning's paper.  Both the article and the video online made me get all choked up.  My friend Rhiannon wrote the article and she is amazing.  She suffers from fibromyalgia, a daily and life long battle.  She is a real warrior and here she is writing a story on me... really?  I think we need a month to promote awareness for a lot of other diseases too.

My boys both want to take the newspaper to school for show and tell.  This is what I love.  My children are learning to not be afraid...to not be embarrassed by the fact that we are going through something that makes us different.  I hope this is a lesson that sticks with them for life.  It's okay to have a bald mom who all your friends stare at.

Ephraim's soccer team wore pink sweat bands around their shin guards at his soccer game yesterday in my honor.  It was so cute.  The coach said it was the boys idea.  After the game they presented me with beautiful pink roses and told me that they had dedicated that game to me... even though they lost.  I'm good with a loss on the game they dedicated to me.  It seems more fitting.  Life doesn't always turn out how we expect it to but we need to do the best we can with what we have... win or lose.




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Final Ultrasound

We are fearfully and wonderfully made... and my soul knows it well.  I had my final ultrasound with the perinatologist yesterday and guess what?  I am bald but the little boy growing inside of me has hair!  My heart is delighted by this!  Today I am 36 weeks pregnant and the ultrasound estimates baby boy's weight to be 7 lbs 4 oz.  The perinatologist recommended that I be induced at 38 weeks.  I told him I don't see a medical need to be induced...so...no thanks!  The ultrasound was amazing!  We could see him practice breathing... watching his little chest rise and fall.  This little boy is so strong willed already.  He faced my back during the entire ultrasound so the tech couldn't get a look at his face and he refused to move with any poking or prodding done to my stomach.  Today I went to my OB for my routine check up and she tried to do a non stress test (monitoring his heart rate for 20 minutes).  Well, they couldn't find his heart rate at all for the first 20 minutes because he would roll away, kick, punch, and who knows what else he was doing.  I was laughing at my strong willed little guy making that nurse work so hard to find a heart rate.  They ended up finding it and I had to move it as he moved for about five minutes until they finally gave up.

I am still officially on modified bed rest because I'm only a week and a half out from my last chemo treatment, but I got the okay to start being more active after this weekend.  I'm really looking forward to getting out for some light exercise.  I'll have to limit it to walking... at a really slow pace because my muscles have atrophied so much from all of my inactivity.  

I'm out of brain power for tonight.  Pregnancy brain and chemo brain combined have left me.....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Hate Pink!



I've always been a lover of classic cars.  For the longest time I've had my heart set on owning a 1959 Cadillac convertible, pink, with white leather interior.  I love this car... the lines, the fins, the bullet tail lights.  It just doesn't get any better than this.  

I've decided that I am so happy I'm having a boy because I have come to HATE the color pink!  I'm pretty disappointed about it too because it really is such a great color.  Breast cancer has ruined the color pink for me... and it's everywhere I look.  Hey... I didn't want to be a part of this sisterhood of the missing breasts... can I please not have it shoved in my face all the time?  For crying out loud, there is a pink breast cancer awareness taxi gallivanting all over the place in Ventura.  I can't stand the sight of that stupid taxi.  I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the attention focused on breast cancer.  Awareness brings in money, money pays for research, research saves lives.  I can appreciate all of that.  I just don't like the fact that it represents what I'm going through.  I don't want to be defined (or even included at all) as a pink ribbon wearing cancer patient.  This is not who I am.  It's just a small part of my life that happened to take away a little piece of my body.  

Don't get me wrong.  I look forward to participating in fundraisers and charity events in the future.  I'll be happy to paint the town pink if that's what needs to be done to affect even one life.  But for me, for now, I will no longer be dreaming of the 1959 pink convertible cadillac with white leather interior because pink is no longer just a pretty color.  Now I'll just have to start dreaming of it in black with red interior.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No More Chemo for My Little Jedi

Monday was my last chemo during pregnancy... no more chemo for Luke Skywalker.  Being at the cancer center for my last treatment was extremely odd for me emotionally.  It was very unsettling.  It was similar to the feeling of saying goodbye to someone you won't be seeing for a long time.  There was a little bit of apprehension, a little anxiety.  The nurse even pointed out to me my lack of enthusiasm for my last treatment.  It actually irritated me that she would notice or point it out like it was something abnormal.  Should I be relieved that I have a break in treatment?  I don't think so.  Of course I'm happy that my baby won't be subjected to it anymore but for me it's not over.  I have a break from treatment, I will deliver my little boy, and then I get to start it all again except at a much higher intensity... weekly... with a new born.  It's also unsettling to know that for two months I'll be receiving no treatment at all.  Inaction makes me nervous.  I didn't get to see my oncologist on Monday because he was out on vacation and that made it all even more unsettling.  What happens next?  Do I just call after the baby is born and say, "Hey, fit me into the schedule for my next 12 weeks of chemo."?  I have so many more questions too.  What about breast feeding?  What about scans?  My sister, Cyndi, suggested that I have a PET scan done while I'm still in the hospital after I deliver baby boy.  No thanks!  I want to go to the hospital to have a baby and leave filled with joy by the new little life.  I don't want to have to even think about results of a scan.  I am eager to get the scan done but I just want a few days of baby without thinking about cancer.

Today I am 35 weeks pregnant.  I haven't had an ultrasound in a whole 4 weeks.  I actually asked to not have one at my last two appointments because I felt like it was getting a bit excessive.  They've already confirmed on multiple occasions that he is healthy.  Besides, there are studies out there that state that ultrasounds aren't very good for babies.  I do have one more ultrasound scheduled for next week.  I'll meet with the perinatologist to check on his growth and amniotic fluid levels.

My last post was about fear.  I've been thinking a lot about the emotions that come along with cancer.  They have to be dealt with.  I have to think about them and experience them.  If I can acknowledge those emotions right now and start to process them, it's going to make it easier in the long run.  The last thing I want to do is to push the emotions aside and let them build up to be dealt with later.  I'd much rather deal with poopy diapers later than have to worry about unresolved emotions.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Home Alone

It isn't often that I'm alone.  Tonight, John and the boys went to the races with my dad and Daphne and my mom went to the movies.  I was actually looking forward to the time alone... until I was actually alone.  I'm alone and now I have time to sit and think.  So often people say how strong I am but I feel weak and pathetic... especially when I'm alone.  It takes away all the distractions and forces me to be alone with my thoughts.  It gives me time to reflect on everything and I don't really want to.  I have become dependent on distractions.  I don't think I've really processed or dealt with any of my feelings.  How strong can I actually be?  I don't think I am strong at all.  I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister... but this situation I'm in has stripped me of the ability to fulfill those roles in the way I want to.  I am those things in title only.  I know it's really harsh to state it like that but it's how I feel.  I feel useless.  I feel alone and it's true that cancer can be such a lonely road.

Wednesday when I met with my OB, I asked her about removing my ovaries.  My cancer is estrogen receptive, so I'm thinking... hey, let's get rid of the production of estrogen.  Oh... and while you're in there, maybe you can just remove my uterus too because my paternal grandmother died of uterine cancer... and let's not forget the other breast.  That has to go too.  I was telling my husband, dad, and sister about this conversation with my OB and they were shocked.  John said, "why don't you just stop driving because there's a risk of dying in an auto accident?"  I totally agree with him.  That's usually the stand I take when it comes to living in fear.  But that's where the feelings of loneliness come in.  I'm alone in my thoughts and fears.  I am alone in my feelings of inadequacy.  I'm alone in feeling like a bald, pregnant, one breasted freak.  I've never thought of myself as a support group type of person but maybe that's where I need to go to not feel this way.  Maybe just having someone understand my irrational thinking would resolve that for me.  Well, I know that's not the answer either.  It might help a little bit but the only way to truly find peace in this is to relinquish it to the Lord.  Oh yeah, I'm not alone.  He is my strength.  I forgot that it's okay for me to be weak because God is right here with me just waiting for me to accept His comfort and to stop letting my irrational thoughts hold me captive.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Boring Heart

Apparently I have a boring heart.  At least that's what the guy who did the echo cardiogram said.  He wasn't allowed to tell me the actual results of the echo because that's the doctor's job.  But he was able to tell me that he found my heart to be very boring... in a wink, wink kind of way.  I like boring!  Boring makes me happy.

Dr. Ramos (my OB) said that everything looks great.  She isn't concerned about my next treatment after the results of the fetal fibronectin test I had last Friday.  Baby boy is doing great but she still wants me on modified bed rest.  Lame... but whatever is best for the little guy is what is on my agenda.

Speaking of the little guy... we still can't decide on a name.  As I've said before, I like the name Luke but it just doesn't feel right for him.  I also like the names Ezekiel and Isaiah.  Ephraim has changed his mind and wants the name Ezekiel.  John likes Luke because the kids picked it.  I just don't know.  By the way... Ezekiel means strengthened by God.  The meaning makes me like it even more.  Maybe he'll be born with long hair and we'll have to name him Sampson.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preparing for Round Six

Today I am officially 34 weeks pregnant.  This pregnancy has flown by.  I'm closing in on the end of it, so excited to meet my little miracle boy and trying to cherish every moment of it (including the uncomfortable ones).  Today has been filled with uncomfortable moments because I'm still coughing (although it's now a very loose cough so I'm hoping it's almost gone) and I have pretty bad sciatic pain which has left me limping around the house.  I caved in and took some Tylenol tonight hoping it will help me sleep.

Tomorrow morning I have to be up bright and early to drive to Santa Barbara during morning traffic for appointments with a Cardiologist and my OB.  I have to be cleared by both in order to receive my next chemo treatment which is scheduled for this Monday.  I'll be getting another echo cardiogram to make sure my heart hasn't been damaged by the previous 5 rounds of chemo.  I'm being pumped full of drugs that can damage my heart and that scares me almost more than the cancer itself.  What is the toll on my body from all the treatment I've received and will be receiving over the next six months?  I don't think about it until it's forced on me and then it makes me feel helpless... well more helpless, I guess.  

After I have the echo, I'll meet with my OB, Dr. Ramos.  She needs to make sure I'm not showing any signs of pre-term labor.  I'm not so sure what Dr. Ramos will have to say after my visit to the hospital last Friday.  I honestly don't think I'm going to deliver early but I'm not sure Dr. Ramos will agree.  All I do know for sure is that they don't want me to deliver too soon after treatment.  

It's been such a long week.  After my visit to the hospital last Friday, so much has happened.  We had soccer games on Saturday.  Sunday was the baby shower where I was blessed with unbelievable generosity and love.   On Monday Tobias had to go to the doctor because he was covered from head to toe with a rash that looked like the Measles.  It ended up being an allergic reaction to a medication he was taking for a staph infection... Thank God!  An allergic reaction means I can kiss him and hug him as usual.  There is so much more I want to write about but I just don't have the brain power to do it.  After treatment number 5, I really felt like it had done a number on my brain cells...like killed most of them.  I just feel plain old stupid most of the time.  The good thing about it is that I feel too stupid to care that my brain isn't functioning right.  I get distracted easily.  I often forget what I'm saying mid-sentence.  My inability to formulate coherent thoughts has made it quite challenging to update my blog.  I frequently have to delete paragraphs because I can't remember the point I was trying to make when I started typing about the chicken noodle soup that burned my mouth.  Maybe I should stop deleting those paragraphs.  It might make for very entertaining reading.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Walk of Shame

One of the best things about this blog is that people read it and then pray for me and those prayers are answered.  Wednesday morning I woke up feeling so much better.  The cough was better which made the headache better and also meant I didn't have to run to the bathroom every time I coughed or sneezed.    This cold is lasting way too long but the symptoms now are at least minimal.

Yesterday morning was Daphne's first field trip as a kindergartner.  Her class went to the Channel Islands Museum in the marina and then to the beach.  I decided to attend this field trip with her.  She really wanted me to go and it was the last chance I'd have before the baby is born.  A half an hour into the field trip I started feeling some discomfort in my abdomen.  It was a burning sensation and a lot of tension and then I started to feel nauseous.  With my first three pregnancies I never experienced any Braxton Hicks or discomfort of any kind until I was in active labor.  When I was in labor I was extremely nauseous so when I started to experience the nausea on the field trip it made me a little concerned.  I told Daphne's teacher, wonderful Mrs. Mitz, and then I left.  I absolutely despise that feeling of weakness.  I know it was the right thing to do but I hate that I flaked out on Daphne's field trip.  I hate the fact that I have to be cautious, that I can't just say I'm fine and go on with my day.  I guess you could say that I have an issue with pride because having to admit to myself that I'm not invincible just plain old sucks.

I went home, sat on the couch and called Dr. Ramos (my OB).  She told me that I need to come to the hospital if I experienced four contractions within an hour.  She was actually pretty concerned about my condition because of the cold.  It surprised me because I've always thought that OB doctors probably scoff at the women who think every little discomfort is the beginning of labor.  Although, I guess I don't really fall into the general population of pregnant women.  After I got off the phone with her all the discomfort stopped for two hours.  I ate lunch and it all started again.  I told my mom and my sister about it and they immediately started making plans to take me to the hospital.  They insisted that I needed to go.  They had my dad come home so he could take me to the hospital.  (John was flying home from his business trip in Texas)

When I was 19 I worked at the hospital doing ER admitting.  At night anyone coming into the hospital has to go through the ER because the main entrance is closed.  I worked the graveyard shift so I got to see all the foot traffic.  I remember watching pregnant women coming into the hospital in the middle of the night and I would make bets with the security guard about which ones we would see coming back out again within a couple of hours, doing the walk of shame.

So here comes my pride again.  I did not want to go to the hospital.  I didn't want my dad to have to drive to Santa Barbara with me and sit around and wait for a couple of hours just to turn around and drive me home.  I didn't want to do the walk of shame.  (Okay, I know it's extremely lame that I call it the walk of shame but that's just the way I felt.  It's the same way I felt when I left Daphne's field trip early.  I felt weak and that makes me disappointed in myself.  I know I shouldn't feel this way but it is what it is.)  Anyhow, I really was concerned because I'm so afraid of having him early but I was pretty certain that I wasn't going into labor.  My mom and my sister actually started getting irritated with me because I didn't want to go and then when they insisted I told them I would just drive myself.  I guess I can be pretty irritating because I'm so stubborn.

Well, I finally let my dad drive me to the hospital and the entire way there I was experiencing the tightening and burning in my abdomen.  It was about 7 times just on the drive there.  (Notice how I'm not calling them contractions?)  I go up to labor and delivery, the nurse takes me into my room and gives me a gown and a band to wear around my belly to hold on all the monitors.  I asked if it was necessary for me to change into the gown because I didn't plan on staying (that pride again).  She didn't make me.  I lay down on the bed and wait for the nurse to come back and hook me up to all the monitors.  She comes in and asks if I've still been experiencing the "discomfort".  I was right at that moment.  By the time she got the monitor on me it was over.  She came back 15 minutes later and asked if I'd experienced any more.  I told her I was experiencing on right at that moment again.  She decided to re-position the monitor because it wasn't showing anything.  She felt my stomach and said that my uterus was definitely getting hard and she moved the monitor.  The monitor picked up the end of my "discomfort" and then that was it.  It stopped again.

Dr. Ramos ordered this awesome test that I have never heard of before.  It's called a Fetal Fibronectin test.  This test determines whether your uterus is releasing the fetal fibronectin protein.  If the test comes back negative, there is a 99.8% chance you will not deliver within the next two weeks.  Well, my test came back negative (Woohoo!) so I got to do the walk of shame. :)

So, I haven't referred to my "discomfort" as contractions because none of them officially registered on the monitor and Dr. Ramos never confirmed that they were actual contractions.  Therefore, I don't feel that I can't actually call them contractions.  Whatever it was, it wasn't labor and that's all that matters to me.  Dr. Ramos put me back on modified bed rest.  I'm wondering why I need to be on bed rest if that Fetal Fibronectin test is so accurate.  I should be able to run wild for the next week and a half at least and not have to worry about pre-term labor, right?  Apparently that's not the way it works though.  Besides, last night John got home from his trip shortly after my dad and I got home from the hospital and he is very protective.  He didn't even want me to get out of bed at all this morning.  I guess I'll be spending more time establishing that butt print on the couch.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Coughing and Sneezing

I am in cold virus hell.  I don't think the cold symptoms are any worse because of the chemo but maybe the cold has hit me harder because my immune system is weaker than normal.  The symptoms are definitely made worse by pregnancy.  I am experiencing the same horrid cold symptoms any eight month pregnant woman would experience and it's not pretty.  My stomach muscles are so sore from coughing.  I cough so hard that my belly button turns into an outty.  I have to wear a pad just in case I cough or sneeze during a moment of weakness when I haven't tightened all my muscles down below.  My head is throbbing from my temples down to my jaw and my nose is getting raw from blowing it all day long.

Yesterday morning I had a particularly intense bout of coughing.  It caused sharp pain in my abdomen and pressure on my pelvis.  I wasn't concerned until I went to the bathroom and found that I was spotting.  I called my OB and she decided to put me on an antibiotic as a precaution and she told me to start taking Robitussin DM and cough drops immediately to get the cough under control.  After spending the day yesterday taking dose after dose of medicine for the cough and none of it helping, I took a hot shower and put some Vicks on my chest and the relief was immediate.  A glass of wine probably would have helped even more.  Today I'm still feeling horrible but slightly better after taking a nap.  No more spotting either.

John is in Texas all week for work and since I'm not functioning much at all, my parents have had to pick up the slack.  We have been blessed this week with unexpected help offered at the perfect times.  Yesterday Tobias' friend had him over for a play date which included a ride to and from soccer practice.  Today my mom's friend picked up Daphne and took her to a museum and for ice cream and my sister picked up the boys after school for a play date.  This evening I got a call from another family friend who wants to take all the kids out for frozen yogurt after school tomorrow.  A family from the kids' school lives around the corner from us and the boys get a ride home from school with them every day and that has been such a huge help to us.  These things have such a huge impact on all of us.  While I'm sick, John's out of town, my mom is busy preparing a lecture, and my dad is trying to finish renovating their investment property, my children have other people stepping in to love on them... and that is the greatest gift I could ever receive.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Cold Can Cause Serious Anxiety

I am not a hypochondriac under normal circumstances but it appears I have become one.  I have a cold and nothing has scared me more.  I just had chemo on Tuesday and my immune system is at it's most vulnerable on days 7 through 14 after treatment.  If I'm getting sick right now, what happens in two days when my system starts to really get weak?  I have been taking my temperature every couple of hours.  Part of the daily routine is to take my temperature twice a day even when I'm feeling fine.  If my temperature gets to 100.5, I'm supposed to go to the hospital.  I don't have a fever but I'm so afraid of what happens if I get one.  I'm 32 weeks pregnant.  My baby is nowhere near ready to come out and that's what scares me the most.  I need to keep my body as healthy as possible to provide this baby with a safe place to continue growing.

It feels so funny to talk about how much I love this baby.  I can't see him but I love him with a depth that is indescribable.  I am so proud of his growth and his ability to thrive in my messed up body.  He is so strong.  Sometimes the pressure on my ribs is so intense that I wonder if it's possible for him to break one and it delights me.  I'll miss being pregnant.  This is my last time.  You'd think I'd have had enough of it by now.  I haven't and I will cherish every moment of this final 7 weeks.  October 31st is approaching too quickly.  Then again, it's not coming quickly enough because I can't wait to see his little face and to know for sure that he is healthy.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Questions Answered

I just got home from my 5th round of chemotherapy.  I know this is going to sound totally strange, but I actually enjoy going to the cancer center for treatment.  I get the reassurance from my doctor that everything is going according to plan.  I get to sit in a recliner for a couple hours and hang out with my sister while drinking hot tea.  And the best part by far is that every time I go, it gets me that much closer to the end.  Treatment isn't painful but I do get exhausted almost immediately after I sit down... but honestly, I think that the fatigue is mostly psychosomatic.  Today I got some of the answers from the oncologist that I've been looking for.

1.  Q: Is it normal for my hair to continue to grow while going through treatment?
     A:  Yes.

2.  Q: Am I receiving the same dosage of drugs I would be receiving if I wasn't pregnant?
     A:  Yes

3.  Q:  What were the hormone receptor and HER2 results from the pathology of the tumor?
     A:  It is ER (estrogen receptor) positive and both PR and HER2 negative.

4.  Q:  What is the tentative plan for treatment after the baby is born?
  • PET scan 
  • Surgery immediately after the baby is born to remove or replace the botched expander and possible surgery to have additional lymph nodes removed because the cancer had metastasized to two of the three lymph nodes taken.
  • Chemotherapy will begin again approximately 4 weeks after I deliver, consisting of 12 treatments once a week for 12 weeks
  • Radiation every day for 6 weeks after the completion of chemotherapy
  • 5 years of Estrogen Therapy (daily pill to prevent recurrence)
Apparently I was wrong in thinking that I had 2 out of the 3 positive markers for the more treatable cancer.  I'll take it though.  One is better than none.  The plan for treatment is somewhat daunting.  It will take such a long time and is so much to put my body through.  It makes me wonder if I'll ever have a life that resembles the one before cancer.  I guess it probably doesn't do any good to wonder.  I'll just choose to believe that my life won't resemble the pre-cancer life I once had because it's just going to be so much better.  I absolutely believe the promise in Jeremiah 29:11.  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Busy is Good

There has been so much going on to keep me busy.  I had my appointment with the perinatologist on Thursday.  It went really well.  Baby boy is perfectly healthy.  During the ultrasound they examined all of his organs, viewed the blood flow in his heart and umbilical cord, and did all the measurements.  There was one point where I started to get nervous because the doctor looked at the heart for such a long period of time.  I was relieved when I heard the words, "everything looks good."  He is measuring large, which fills me with a sense of amazement.  The main concern while I'm going through chemo during pregnancy is the growth of the little guy and he is exceeding expectations.  I don't put too much faith in ultrasounds when it comes to predicting the babies weight because they can be off by as much as a pound.  I was 31 weeks and 1 day pregnant when I had the ultrasound and the average weight of a baby at that gestational age is 3 lbs 3 oz.  My baby's estimated weight is 4 lbs 3 oz.  The estimated due date is 10/22/12, a full 9 days earlier than my actual due date which is 10/31/12 (Halloween).

A friend and former team mate of mine from high school asked me if I'd be interested in doing an interview for an article on cancer during pregnancy.  She came over to my parent's house on Thursday to do the interview.  Some of the questions she asked made me start thinking about the fact that I've stayed pretty ignorant about the details of my cancer and that's not like me.  I like to be informed.  Why haven't I asked more questions?  Is it because I'm afraid of the answers?  So, today I decided to review the pathology report from my mastectomy.  The only report I have is the preliminary report and it doesn't have all of the finalized details.  The medical terminology is foreign to me and I have no idea what it all means.  What I should have done was taken the pathology report in to the oncologist this coming Tuesday and asked him to explain to me what it all means.  Instead I chose to Google the information.  There is too much information out there and it is not specific to my situation.  I don't know how to interpret the pathology report in the first place and trying to obtain information on something I don't understand just makes a mess of things.  There is too much scary information and I'm not sure how much of it applies to me.  It's scary and it gets me down.  Down is not where I want to be.  So I'm going to try and stay busy and to remember that I shouldn't do anymore research.