20 April 2010

Deja WHAT?

About 24 hours after my surgery (which puts me at about 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon) I noticed that I had some itching on my wrists and on my ankles. No rash, perhaps a little pink. Within an hour or so, I had just a general tingly itchy feeling all over my body and the wrists were definitely showing signs of a rash starting. My neck was the next to follow and by the evening I had a rash starting on my back and abdomen. I immediately started Benadryl. That helped me sleep through Saturday night, only to rise the usual times to use the bathroom.

Sunday morning the rash was much more defined and it was making me crazy. I stayed on the Benadryl, but also called Dr. Hanna to report that once again I was showing signs of an allergic reaction to something. I didn't have ANY of the suspected medications from the first surgery, so now we have to figure out what the real culprit is.

Now it is Sunday night and the rash is spreading like wildfire. I decided to experiment with an old tried and true thing called Witch Hazel. This homeopathic liquid is quite versatile. FYI:
Witch hazel is a low growing shrub native to North America. It has a long history of use medicinally, and cultivation of the bush has spread to Europe for this purpose. Preparations of witch hazel ranging from tinctures to soothing creams are available in most drug stores, as well as specialty stores for skin care. The plant acts as an astringent, firming and tightening tissue and acting to reduce itching and irritation. Other properties have also been ascribed to witch hazel, making it an excellent all-purpose addition to the medicine cabinet.

The Witch Hazel has an instant cooling effect, and it appeared to quell the itching long enough for the Benadryl to kick in. Catherine is on hand to keep my hands from scratching. It's bedtime, so I take two Benadryl instead of one along with my sleep meds and I make it through the night without going crazy with itching when I arise the two times to use the bathroom. Not bad.

I have an appointment which was previous scheduled with Dr. Hanna, just to check on my incision and the implants. All looks really good. But the rash is a real head shaker. He's convinced that it isn't from ANY of the oral meds given to me post surgery but one of the three meds they mix for anesthesia or something relating to the surgery. He sends me to Dr. Charamanti and I get mega-doses of Prednisone (steroids) and am told to stay on the Benadryl.

So, this is what I am doing. The rash is no worse today, but no better. I still see that as progress. Once, the steroids really start working (Dr. says 36 hours from the first dose) we'll should see some good progress. If not....suspenseful organ music...back to the hospital I go for the "big guns" of IV steroids.

Honestly, I really don't think it will come to that. I am so determined. I am being SO good about keeping myself from scratching. I am also convinced that the Witch Hazel is doing some good. Well, at least it is soothing and it isn't making the rash any worse.

I am still in pain, and it is hard to get up from a lying down position on my own without intense pain, so I always need someone to help me get up and lay down. I am able to find certain ways to lay in bed, with pillows propped in certain ways where I feel no pain at all. That is great. It's just moving around that causes the pain, so I move as little as possible.

The areas that will become my new breasts (I just can call them breasts yet...it's just stuffed skin right now) are very tight, as the implants are really packed in there. I am assured that over several months, the skin, muscle and tissue will "give" and adjust so that they are shaped more natural and don't feel so hard and painful. I guess it's like breaking in a new pair of leather loafers.

I am really shocked over this whole allergic reaction thing, and how much the implant area hurts. It really is much more uncomfortable than I could have imagined. I am always so impatient. I want everything to get back to normal RIGHT NOW!!!

Rest is what I need most, so that is what I am going to try to do. Radiation is just around the corner and that is going to be tough. Probably the hardest thing is the grinding schedule: every day, Monday through Friday for almost 7 weeks. It will be at least two hours out of my day, for many weeks. Again, my impatience is showing.

But, after reading this post, I hope you remember more of my optimism than my impatience:
Hymn #30: Come, Come Ye Saints verse 2

Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard? 'Tis not so; all is right
Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake!
And soon we'll have this tale to tell--
"All is well! all is well!!"

17 April 2010

Home Again

Mom had her second surgery yesterday. It was in-patient procedure so no staying over the in hospital again. We're still trying to figure out if that's a good thing or a bad thing. She went to the hospital at noon yesterday and her surgery was scheduled to start at 2. It was a little before 3 when Dad emailed me that the plastic surgeon was not finished with his previous surgery yet and they were still waiting. He also mentioned that Mom was on 10 mg of Valium and "lovin' it." When I talked to Mom yesterday around ten she said that her biggest hope was that she didn't remember anything. She just wanted to go in and wake up with the new girls. So I'm pretty sure the Valium helped this.

The next thing I know, Dad texted around 6 and said that Mom was in recovery and that they were anticipating a couple of hours for recovery. They came home a little before 10 last night. Mom was obviously in pain but moved a little better than I remember the first surgery go-round. She said that her mouth was very dry from the surgery and even the ice chips didn't seem to quench her thirst. She was also very cold from all the anesthesia wearing off. The shivering made her tense up and hurt. She said that she didn't expect it to hurt this bad this time. Frowny face. She also said that her chest wall and around the area were very tight. She tried to get comfortable but it seemed hard. After taking some medicine and trying to relax she seem to settle in. I was in there talking to Mom and Dad and then Daniel came in. It was so nice just sitting in there and talking with them. I think family being around when you're in pain just calms you down.

When I woke up this morning I came down stairs to find Dad. I asked how Mom did and his simple reply was, "Pretty good." HURRAY! About 25 minutes later Mom came down stairs. I asked her how she think she did last night. She said, "the drugs helped." Double victory. She's finishing up breky right now and I imagine will take it easy for a good while.

12 April 2010

Living Waters


This afternoon I had to drive back to the venue where Saturday's wedding cake was delivered so that I could retrieve the cake stand and other cake accessories. This is not something I have ever done before, but the bride paid me for the convenience of not having to bring those items back to me later this week.

I don't drive very often. It is much more uncomfortable (painful) for me to have the seat belt across my chest in while in the driver's seat than the passenger's seat. I think I have driven only four times in the last four months. Today was spectacularly beautiful and the venue was at a rustic setting called the Aqueduct Conference Center nestled in the bucolic woods surrounding Jordan Lake, just off Farrington Rd.

I had the windows down and the sunroof open. I was listening to a CD that Mary had made for Doug for Christmas and I had the song Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan playing fairly loudly while I let the wind "blow through my hair" (well, figuratively, as my hair is only about 1/2 inch long right now).

I felt so alive and happy. There are several portions of this road that cross over some of the "fingers" of Jordan Lake. People were out on their boats, others were fishing and I just thought to myself "what is it about being close to the water that makes me feel so peaceful and happy?"

I get this same feeling when we go to the ocean. Water--lakes, rivers...it is all the same for me. I just love it. I started to think about how we need water to live. We can go without food for sometime, but it doesn't take too many days without water before our bodies begin to shut down.

That made me think about the Savior, and how all references in the scriptures to "living waters" refer to Him. He is the source of our spiritual life and if we go too long without being fed by Him through His Spirit, our spirit begins to shut down too.

I can't even imagine how I could have survived these last 6 months without my testimony of Jesus Christ and the power of his atonement to lift me when I have hit the lowest points that I have ever experienced in my life.

*(deep thoughts, contemplations, meditation)

What's Been Goin' On?

About three week's ago I started having the tissue expanders filled with saline in preparation for the final reconstruction surgery that would eventually take place at the end of the year. It became instantly apparent to Dr. Hanna, and me that the expanders were high on my chest and not in the usual level that breasts are found in women. Nevertheless, I returned 10 days later for my second fill. That was a week ago today. As he injected into the expanders the additional solution, I was very uncomfortable. No, that is an understatement. I was in pain.

Dr. Hanna was obviously concerned and told me that he didn't see any reason for me to return for additional fills, since the expanders weren't expanding me in the place where the permanent breast implants would ultimately go. He started thinking "out loud" in his usual manner.

He thought it would be best if he could go ahead and remove the expanders and put in the permanent implants now, before radiation treatment began. But, we all know that I was already at 9 weeks post surgery and that the radiation oncologist needed for the treatments to begin no later than 12 weeks post surgery. Dr. Hanna called Dr. Sailer to suggest the change in plans.

I was so hopeful. These expanders hurt so much and actually restrict movement of my upper arm since they go into my arm pit as well. (You'll just have to use your imagination, since I can't show you what I am talking about. Find the point of your right clavicle bone that is centered between your shoulder and the center of your neck. Go one inch down. That is where the top of the expander is. Imagine that your breast tissue starts there)

The thought of having to live with these tortuous things for 8 more months was very discouraging. You see, I originally could not have the final surgery until 6 months post radiation, or there would be serious healing issues. I was excited about the possibility of moving this time line up.

Then, on Wednesday, I got the call that Dr. Sailer said no. We couldn't hold off the radiation any longer. I was depressed. Despondent. I cried on and off all the rest of the day. Sleeping was difficult even with Ambien, because of the pain of these things.

I had an appointment with Dr. Sailer last Friday to start the radiation process for the next 6 weeks. When he examined me he said "Well, a picture is worth a thousand words". He was able to understand what Dr. Hanna was describing over the phone. He just couldn't imagine it, just as I am sure you might be having a hard time imagining what I am describing.

He looked at my chart and said that since I had such favorable pathology report from my mastectomy that we could buy a little more time and he concurred with Dr. Hanna to go ahead and do surgery ASAP.

Oh...I am not sure I ever wrote that they found NO evidence of cancer in my breast tissue or lymph nodes in the pathology. That meant that the chemotherapy destroyed ALL the cancer. All my doctors were beyond surprised. It was miraculous.

Anyway, Dr. Hanna and Dr. Sailer spoke this morning and my surgery to get these hideous things OUT and the permanent implants in is scheduled for this Friday, April 16th at 2:15 p.m. I am both excited and and nervous. I am not sure what to expect in the outcome. Because the expanders were unable to do what they were supposed to do, I may not get the fullness that matches what I was like before the mastectomy. At this point, I am trying just to be grateful that I even have this option.

Radiation will likely begin by mid-May. I won't know until my May 15th appointment with Dr. Singh if he still believes that I won't have to finish up the chemotherapy that was stopped back in January. I am not counting on anything, but hoping that his research will give me the answer that I want to hear.


Many of you already know that my father died two weeks ago on March 30th. He passed away peacefully in his sleep after suffering for the last 6 or so years with Alzheimer's disease.

My mom called me on the evening of Monday, March 29th to tell me that the Hospice caretaker felt dad's passing was impending within a day or two. She said that Daddy had not eaten or drank anything in three days. He had not responded in several days. In that moment I felt an urgent need to be near him. I had not seen my father since early November after my first chemo treatment. I was not able to go to the facility in my immune compromised state.

We gathered up the family and immediately drove to see him. He was so thin, barely over 100 pounds. He was in a non-responsive state, but appeared to be sleeping, although his eyes were half-way open. On Tuesday, I returned with my son, Mark, since he was unable to be with us the night before. We stayed for several hours until my mom was able to get there. She was making the arrangements at the funeral home and cemetery in preparation for the inevitable.

I had to take Mark home so he could get to work. I was only home for 20 minutes when my mother called to tell me that dad had passed on. One moment he was breathing, the next moment he was not.

Within an hour or so, I returned back to the facility to stay with my mom until the funeral home came to take away the vessel that housed my father's spirit for these 82 years.

The next days were filled with many tasks and phone calls making arrangements for my sisters' arrival from their homes across the country and preparing the program for the funeral including helping my kids prepare special music for the funeral.

My mom asked Douglas to give my father's eulogy. It was wonderful. My brother-in-law Will gave a marvelous talk on the Great Plan of Salvation.

I was so happy for my dad, who was now free from the body that had impaired him from being able to communicate with his family and friends. And yet, my daddy had died. It was exquisite joy and sorrow.

Three days. Three days my father had no water. He could not live without it. Water is essential for our bodies. The Living Waters, where we can drink and never thirst again are always here for us if just want to drink.

I am so thirsty.