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 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.