29 September 2010

Celebrate With Me

One year ago today, September 29, 2009, I received the telephone call from Dr. Hamad informing me that I had breast cancer.  For those who were there at Karen Garner's house, you remember how difficult this was for me. It was a hard day, and also somewhat surreal.  Even now, the whole year is some what surreal, like "did this really happen?"

Looking back is like trying to remember how bad labor and delivery was (without anesthesia or drugs) several months after your baby was born: you can recall that it was painful and hard, but you can't really bring back the extent of the pain to your memory.  This is probably why so many of us have more and more children! :)

It's true, I will forever have the physical scars and other residual issues as a result of all three treatments - chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.  Everyday I am bothered by at least one of the symptoms left behind, but mostly, I am getting on with the business of living.  This is reason all by itself to celebrate.

To follow up, I did decide to switch my oncologist to Dr. Kimberly Blackwell at Duke University Hospital.  She was really sharp.  She isn't warm and fuzzy, but that is not what I needed.  She listened to me and acknowledged all of my issues and recommended treatments to help me.  She referred me to a pain clinic and a specific physical therapist that deals with post mastectomy problems.  Between the two new treatments I am doing better.  I still have a long way to go.

Finally someone listened enough to diagnose part of my problem.  I have lymphedema in my chest wall.  O Lymphedema is found in patients who have had radiation and who have also had lymph nodes removed with their mastectomies.   Your lymphatic system functions similarly to your blood flow in your body.  Lymphatic fluid circulates via the lymph nodes.  When lymph nodes are removed, the lymph fluid can get backed up  and cause intense swelling.  This can be dangerous and is painful.  Usually, mastectomy patients experience Lymphedma in their arm.  Constriction sleeves are custom made to held reduce the swelling.  Think about how support hose are needed when someone had bad veins that cause swelling in legs, feet and ankles.  The same principle works for swelling cause from a build up of lymphatic fluid.

My fluid is building up in the area where my breast and lymph nodes were removed on the right side (the cancer side that was radiated).  The swelling causes compression around the implant and it is very painful.  The physical therapist does a special 'massage' that helps encourage the flow of the lymph fluid, therefore reducing the swelling and ultimately my pain.  The problem is that it only lasts for a few hours.  I will ultimately have to be fitted with a compression "bra" (not really a bra, but it's the easiest way to describe it) that should help in between treatments.  It is very expensive ($300 plus), but my insurance should pay for most of it.

I just want to say that I am filled with gratitude.  I am so happy to be on the other side of all this.  On Saturday, I will be walking the 5K in Charlotte for the Susan G. Komen event.  It's not going to be easy, I have walked only a maximum of 2 miles in the last two months, and that was hard, but I am going to give it my best.  Most of my family is coming to Charlotte to do the walk together in celebration of my 1st year as a cancer survivor.

Our team name is Team Can't-cer, which is taken from the sign that Christian and Mary made when we went to celebrate the completion of my cancer treatments.

My diagnoses CAN'T define me.  I had cancer, but it is not who I am.
My pain CAN'T stop me.  I have pain, but with the right treatment and perseverance, I will overcome.

So please, celebrate with me.  I AM a cancer SURVIVOR.  1 year down, the rest of my life to go.

WHEW.....that was some year! :)


Catherine said...

Mom, I am SO proud of you and all you have endured! I love you so much and am glad to honor you each and every day that we put mean, ol' awful Genevieve behind us!

Marisha said...

yeah Sis Plautz! You are amazing, and I'm glad you're doing so much better. I can't imagine, well I *kinda* can from reading your blog, but I'm sure it was still much worse, what this past year has been like. You are a true inspiration! Love you!

Brenda said...

You're an incredible woman Sally. I'm proud to know who you are.

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, Sally. I'm so glad to hear you are getting on to the business of living (perfect wording!). That is the blessing. Best luck on your walk!! Love, Katie

Brianna said...

YAY Sally!!! I'm so happy to read this. Now you can concentrate on enjoying life.

Annah said...

Celebrating, smiling and sending you lots of good wishes.

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