17 February 2010

Trying to Find Myself

It is still difficult to type, since my fingers are still plagued with the numbness of neuropathy, so this will be brief.

The last two weeks of my life have been surreal. I don't even know how to express the life-changing experiences that I have had. I don't think it would have been as difficult, if it hadn't been for the sudden and urgent action that needed to be taken when I had the severe allergic reaction to the Percocet (Oxycodon). Those who saw me during this time were witnesses of true insanity. The heavy IV steriods really did alter my perceptions. The itching was so intense that I now I know why people who feel tortured want to run and jump off buildings. Mere words cannot describe.
I spent from Wednesday through Sunday at the hospital for treatment for the ridiculous rash all over my body. Every day, the itching subsides more and more. Today, there was very little itching.

I cry everyday. I am pretty sore, but healing well. I can't sleep at night because the steroids make you hyper. Doug reminds me everyday that once the steroids get out of me that I will feel more "normal" again. Now, remind me.....what is NORMAL for me? It was so long ago, I just cannot remember.

Seriously though, I couldn't have made it through these last weeks without all of your love and prayers. When I am feeling better, and my fingers aren't so awkward, I will write more.

09 February 2010

Hanging in there

I think the thing that is mostly coming to my mind when coming up with an update about Mom is that there is both progression everyday, but also obstacles. This rash that Mom has because of the antibiotics in the hospital is really making her life miserable. Friday when we went to visit Mom in the hospital she showed us the itchy rash on her wrists. Saturday morning it started to spread and became very uncomfortable. As I said before Mom took Benadryl. Finally Sunday afternoon when it was clearly not getting any better, Elizabeth called the doctor on call who decided that he would remove one of the medications (the antibiotic) and give her another one. Monday she still endured the itching and all the discomfort because of it. Yesterday was the follow up with the plastic surgeon. When he saw the rash Mom said that he was so concerned that he phoned his friend who happened to be a dermatologist to see her right away. (It turned out that Mom had seen that dermatologist some 15 years previously.) He gave mom one oral medication and topical cream for the morning and another oral medication and topical cream for the evening. Mom woke up this morning with terrible itching and discomfort. Because the pharmacy that we currently use was not opened yet, Dad opted to go to the 24-hour Walgreens in downtown Fuquay. The pharmacy told Dad that they would need the doctor's office to complete an insurance form in order for them to fill the prescription. This has resulted in phone tag at the doctor's office and to make a long story short, she still doesn't have the prescriptions she needs. Though the plastic surgeon was hesitant to give Mom prednisone - which would clear the rash up speedy quick - he went ahead and called it in. Prednisone also makes Mom's immune system even more compromised, so we have to be even more careful with anyone who goes near her. Don't let that you be afraid to come and visit, though. We have complimentary hand sanitizer and face masks if you're not feeling 100%.

I think Mom is being as positive as she can be right now. She has already accomplished so much. She even said that if it weren't for the dumb rash, she would be doing okay. She said she has learned to move, sit, and sleep in such a way that does not make her too uncomfortable.

We continue to feel the love, prayers, and support from everyone. The calls, emails, visits, comments, and dinners have been wonderful. I am so grateful that Dad and Elizabeth are here too. Having family around is so comforting. I can't imagine my life without them. Mom has done so much for everyone, we are grateful to give back to her.

06 February 2010

She's home

Last night around 8 o'clock mom and dad came home. Mom is in a lot of pain but did so well walking from the car to the house and up the stairs to her bedroom. She is being so brave and already showing that she's gonna give it her best. For some strange reason she started having some sort of allergic reaction and became very uncomfortable last night. We called the pharmacy and made sure it was okay for her to take some Benadryl along with her other meds. This morning dad said that she did okay last night sleeping. He even got some sleep too! She is still okay with short visits for those of you who would like to stop by. But you'll have to forgive her because she can't come to the door to greet you. Prayers on her behalf for comfort, sleep, and a speedy recovery are definitely being felt. Keep them coming!

05 February 2010

Morning update

Well I just spoke with dad. He said that mom had a difficult night. When asked about visits, mom said that she would be up for them but only short ones. If you do go, please arrange your visit with dad. She is at Cary Wake Med in Room #120. For the phone number (for my dad or the room), please call us at the house.

One other thing he said is that they would be discharging her today. Dad said that the doctors have good reasons for it, but he didn't go into detail. Let's all pray that mom has a comfortable day.

04 February 2010

Another update

10:20 - Dad said that he would be seeing mom any minute from then and that she is in an observation room overnight.

11:00 - Dad is in the room with mom. She is awake, but in A LOT of pain. She is cognisant of things and aware of her surroundings. In other words, she's not talking gibberish. In fact, she can't talk because she was intubated for so long - her mouth/throat is very dry. Dad said that she may be put into another room in the morning, but the place where she is now would likely be hers until she is discharged. Dad is doing well and caught up on some work and all the magazines he's been putting off reading until now. He said that everything took longer then he expected. But also sounded relieved that mom was done and awake. Because she is in A LOT of pain, he anticipated that it would be a rough night. She's getting morphine every 2 hours, so we'll see! Dad put me on speaker phone for her to hear me. I gave her my love and all the love that everyone has been sending. Dad said that she nodded her head.

Surgery update

Hello to all! This is Catherine, Sally's daughter. Here's a timeline of events from mom's surgery today:

12:50 - Dad called and said that they were wheeling her away. He said she was a little weepy, but was given the good drugs so seemed comfortable. The surgery was scheduled to begin at 12:30, but I remember her saying that all the doctors wanted to speak with her before the surgery, so that's probably what delayed it.

3:40 - Dad called to let us know that the surgeon was finished and now the plastic surgeon was taking over.

8:00 - Dad called to let us know that Mom was out of surgery. Things went well and doctors said that all was routine. She was being placed in recovery for an hour and then dad would see her. He will be staying the night with her.

Mom said that they would keep her 24 hours from the time she was placed into a "real" room. So, we are expecting her to be back late Friday night. But that is the plan for now. We'll see how things go overnight and such and how well she can manage the pain as well.

There have been people who have expressed a desire to send flowers or a gift. Because of the short duration of her stay at the hospital, we would suggest sending these to her home. If you are looking for alternative gift suggestions, please contact me or Elizabeth.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, thoughts, and love. Please keep them coming. We are so blessed to have you in our lives. Much love to all.

03 February 2010

Fear Not!

It's a little past eleven o'clock. I have taken some Xanax and an Ambien in hopes that I will sleep well, and not be troubled with any anxiety during the night.

I am so grateful for your prayers and words of love and encouragement regarding my surgery tomorrow. Honestly, I cannot believe that this day is here.

Each day since Monday I have felt more and more comfort.

I have always been a proponent of the philosophy that "knowledge is power". As I met with the anesthesiologist yesterday and he addressed my concerns (OK, who is kidding who--they were darn right fears) I felt much less fearful about that aspect of the surgery. Understanding what will happen each step of the way helps me. Today I spoke with three of my sisters, Ruth Ellen Jo Ann and Colleen, who also, from their own experiences helped me understand and fear it less.

This afternoon I met with Dr. Donald Hanna, my plastic surgeon who will be doing the reconstruction surgery. I felt such confidence in him as he talked me through the steps of what will happen tomorrow, and then what will happen in the coming weeks and months as the reconstruction process continues. I also left with an awful lot of purple marker drawn all over my chest. I am a sight right now.

My surgery is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The estimated time of surgery is anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. It will be late in the evening before I will be in my room at Wake Med Cary. I will probably have Doug or one of my daughters post an entry late tomorrow night or early Friday with an update.

There is a scripture in the New Testament that has been going through my mind since Monday evening. It has brought me great comfort.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind"
2 Timothy 1:7

I feel the power that comes through my faith in Christ and the love that embraces me from you, my friends and from my Father in Heaven. My mind is now at peace with the process that awaits me tomorrow and in the coming months.

My fears are replaced with the Power of Love.

01 February 2010

Time to Face my Fears!

Everything has changed.

Last Monday, I met with my oncologist, Dr. Singh, per usual before my chemotherapy treatment. He asked about how my body was handling the Taxol treatments.

He became highly concerned when I told him about how difficult it had become for me to walk without assistance and was especially concerned regarding the numbness in my fingers and feet. He sat and pondered for a few minutes and then told me that while we want me to be well, he didn't want me to become handicapped in the process. The neuropathy in my hands and feet could get significantly worse with additional Taxol treaments, and it is known that sometimes the numbness is permanent.

We have known for many weeks that the treatments have been very effective in shrinking the large mass of cancer. He examined me and really felt like it had shrunk enough to make surgery possible now. He called Dr. Hamad, my surgeon, right there in the office to discuss the possibility and I had an appointment for the next day to meet with her to see if she concurred. I left without having to have any treatment last Monday.

Dr. Hamad did concur that I was in a good situation for safe and effective surgery. She told me it would be in 2 - 3 weeks. My head was spinning. This is all happening so fast.

Now, I don't get out of the last chemo treatments, as Dr. Singh said that a few months later, I would eventually have to have them, but that he would use the alternate Taxotere instead. This is pretty stinky! He says that it usually doesn't have as severe of side effects, but everything I have read about it says that the exact same side effects, plus some extra ones are possible. Additionally, my hair would have started to grow back in by a few months from now, and then I will have to lose it all over again. I am trying not to think about this until later.

I called the surgeon's office last Thursday, because I hadn't been notified of my surgical date. She said she was working on it, and that she'd know by Friday morning. Well, I never got a call on Friday.

This morning, just two hours ago, the nurse, Debra, called. She said that when she was setting up the surgery on Friday, the soonest they could do was February 23rd. That was further away than I expected. BUT, she said...just this morning there was a cancellation for Thursday. THIS COMING THURSDAY!!!!

I felt a whoosh of terror and panic come over me, and I started to cry. Could I be emotionally prepared for all of this in three short days? She said I could call her back later this morning, but that she had offered it to me first and she needed to know soon so that she could offer it to another patient.

I fell apart. I talked with Doug. I talked with Catherine and called Elizabeth. They see it as a blessing that I have less time to stress about it and, they know that I would, because I already have since last Monday's shocker. Rip the band-aid off fast!!!

Catherine's words had the most impact, "you want to get the cancer out of you as soon as possible".

So, I faced my fear and called Debra back and took the available surgery time for this Thursday, February 4th. I arrive at the hospital at 10:00 for a noon surgery.

I am trying so hard not to be scared.

But I am. I think that now I am more afraid of the emotional aspects of what they are actually doing--the removing of my breasts--than the surgery itself. Although, since I have never had general anesthetic nor any surgery before, I face that unknown with several degrees of trepidation too.

This surgery is happening TWO MONTHS earlier than anticipated. That's good, right? The road to recovery is faster, right?

I ask for your prayers on my behalf that in this abbreviated time I will feel at peace and be prepared in all ways to make it through the surgical process the same as if I had more time. I pray also that I will feel the love of God embrace me as I go through these next weeks.