Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BRCA Test Results

Today I found out that I tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes!  This is great news because:

1.  There's a lower chance of recurrence.
2.  There's a lower chance of developing other types of cancers, especially ovarian.
3.  I won’t have to get my ovaries removed.  (We can have more kids in the future!)
4.  I don’t have to worry about passing on these gene mutations, because I don’t have them!

Yayyyyyyy!  I was actually very surprised when I got the results.  I was fully expecting to test positive for the genes, especially because of my young age and triple negative status.  But now I'm so excited about this good news... it makes the future look so much brighter!

All About Boobs

Last week, my husband and I spent lots of time meeting with surgeons and making some important decisions about… boobs!  As I have said before, I am being treated with every option possible that will lower the risk of recurrence.  Down to the percentage point.  So, I already knew that I would choose to have a mastectomy on both breasts, even the one that never had any cancer.  Studies show that prophylactic mastectomies can increase survival rates for women under fifty who had stage 1 or 2 estrogen receptor negative breast cancer (me).  

In the old days, mastectomies used to be very traumatizing for women.   Surgery techniques were not advanced, and there were hardly any reconstruction options available.  Women had to live with being completely flat-chested for the rest of their lives.  That's certainly not something that I would be okay with, at least not if I have a choice!  

I plan to have my breasts immediately reconstructed.  Meaning that during the same surgery when the breast surgeon does the double mastectomy, a plastic surgeon will also be there starting the reconstruction process.  I will wake up from surgery with boobs, but they will not be exactly perfect until after the plastic surgeon goes back later and does some more smaller surgeries throughout the following months.  This will give me time to heal from the major surgery, and for my skin to stretch enough to accommodate the implants.  The surgeon says that tissue expanders followed by implants are the only option for me, because there's not enough fat anywhere else on my body to be used to make boobs.  That’s fine, because I don’t really want to get cut open on another part of my body anyways.
hmmmm... which size will I get?  which surgeons do I want?  what does all of this involve?!

We have done tons of research and have been very selective in deciding which surgeons to meet with.  After being super impressed with the doctors and facilities at The Breast Center at Mercy in Baltimore, we’ve decided to have my surgeries done there.  (It doesn’t hurt that they have a medi-spa and a unique gift shop to provide “retail therapy” between appointments.)  The doctors are the most knowledgeable, sincere, and willing to be aggressive with my treatments, which is very important to me.  I feel like these doctors understand what I want and are very honest with me about what it takes to get there.  It will not be a simple/easy surgery or recovery, but at least I know that going into it.  The whole program at Mercy seems very well put together.  I feel comfortable placing my trust in both the breast surgeon, Dr. F, and the plastic surgeon, Dr. C.  They were also recommended by my oncologist.  We have set the date of my first surgery to be June 16.  That should (hopefully) give me enough time to recover from chemo and for my body to gain more strength.

I know that a lot of people have various opinions on boob jobs, with some people being adamantly against them in any case scenario.  Other people see nothing wrong with enhancing their bodies to make themselves more happy/raise their self esteem.  I personally never wanted a boob job.  I didn’t need big boobs to feel attractive, so I wouldn’t want to go through an elective surgery if there was nothing medically wrong with me.  But now that breast cancer has literally cost me my natural boobs, I will gladly take “fake boobs” over no boobs at all.  I am so grateful that reconstructive surgery even exists.  I know that some people may judge me for this, but I’m doing all that I can to save my own life.  There are too many good things to focus on than to worry about the negative people who will find anything to put others down.  I know that the people who matter understand and support all of my decisions!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I have always wanted to learn how to cook, but never really knew where to begin.  I feel awkward in the kitchen… cooking is like some science experiment that I never quite get right.  I never liked science.  I’ll usually make some small mistake in the beginning that will set everything else off, and it will turn into a disaster.  Until my husband comes in and “rescues” me from the mess I’ve just made.  People have told me that its best to start out learning with the easiest form of cooking: baking.  Okay, so the truth is that I’ve never even baked cupcakes (from a box) by myself before.  So this Easter, I decided to give it a try: funfetti cupcakes with vanilla icing.  The most basic you can get.  Of course, it turned into something complicated for me, because when the ingredients said “oil,” I didn’t know what kind of oil… vegetable oil, olive oil, etc.  But anyways, I was so proud of myself when they were finished and they tasted good.  I stuck in little Easter eggs, bunnies, and chicks on a toothpick.  Next time, I will try to bake something a little more difficult… just taking it one step at a time.

Ryan celebrated his very first Easter with us today!  He seemed curious and excited about his Easter basket.  Since Ryan is too young for candy, he just had a good time pulling at the ribbon and touching the plastic eggs (trying to put each and every one in his mouth, of course).  Some of the eggs had coins inside that we helped him put into his piggy bank.  We said,  “Ryan, this is your money. When you are a little older, you can decide whether to save it (like daddy), or spend it (like mommy)." hahaha!  (I’m really not that bad… I just end up being the target of all jokes involving shopping, for some reason!)  Overall, we had a lot of fun today and I think that Ryan did too!

We had a few guests visiting us this weekend.  Aunt A and Uncle S came down from Connecticut. They hadn’t seen Ryan since he was two weeks old… what a difference seven months makes!

Also, K stopped by and we took Ryan, Lucky, and Lily on a walk outside because the weather was just BEAUTIFUL!  We had a long girl chat (as usual!) and Ryan eventually fell asleep. =)

This gorgeous weekend reminds me of how God provides for us when we need it most, including His sacrifice for our sins and the true meaning of Easter.  As I go through all of the tests, procedures, and my last chemo treatment this Friday, I know that He will give me the strength that I need.  No matter how bad it gets, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and pretty soon this will all be a distant memory.  I can't wait to move forward with a long, healthy life ahead of me!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nothing But a Diaper


He loves it!

I mean really loves it... more than toys, food, jumping, kicking, and binky-kind-of love.  I've never seen my baby happier than when he's in nothing but a diaper!  

So lucky for us, at every diaper change, we get to see this adorable smile:
(as long as there are no clothes involved!)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friends and Hubby Love

The bachelorette... isn't she so cute?
I have a close group of girlfriends from high school who have “been through it all” together.  I really consider them more as sisters, because they are not just your typical friends. I can count on these girls to get me through the worst times, celebrate the best times, and every moment in between.  In a self-centered world, girls tend to be catty, jealous, full of gossip, and looking out for themselves above others.  NOT these girls!  I appreciate their honesty, genuinely sincere intentions, and also their ability to know me better than I know myself sometimes!  I feel so lucky to have found this group of girls so early on. We've stayed super close throughout the years of college and now that we are "grown up" (although on the inside, we are still those same juniors in high school going to the beach and looking for foam parties, haha).  One of these girls, K, had her bachelorette party last weekend.  They went to a tulip farm, winery, out to dinner and for drinks at a martini bar.

"Red Devil" that I loathe
Do you know how sad I am to have to miss my best friend’s big weekend?!  While she was enjoying her white chocolate martini (that I picked out!), I was experiencing my own “cocktail” topped off with Adriamycin.  Blehh! (I took this picture to show you that I’m really not kidding about the bright red color and potency of this medicine).  The good news is that K had a great time at her bachelorette, and I will be finished with chemo in time to plan all of the fun details of her bridal shower!  It will be absolutely amazing to plan the perfect party for her!

With the boys at chemo #5
Speaking of amazing, have I ever told you how much I love my husband? (I know I have!)  This guy has had a lot on his plate, particularly these past few weeks.  I admire his strength and devotion to me throughout everything.  He says that his love for me has only grown, and I believe him. (Whoever thought that I could be so lovable bald?)  This trial is strengthening our marriage in a way that gives us so much confidence and trust in each other.  If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything!  I’m sure that it’s not easy having a wife who is sick for four months.  Every day, my hubby faithfully hooks me up to my IV antibiotics (twice), injects heparin into my picc line, does more than his share around the house, holds down a full time job, and still manages to be super sweet!  He bakes me chocolate brownies, brings home flowers regularly, cooks for me most nights, spends time with me when I’m in the hospital, and patiently sits through endless doctors appointments and meetings with surgeons.  I am truly blessed to have this man in my life!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the rest of our lives together.  It can only go uphill from here!  =) 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To Our 7 Month Old...

     Dear Ryan, 
Every single day we fall in love with you all over again.
Love, Mommy & Daddy    
I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow
and each road leads you where you want to go
and if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin till you find the window
if it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
More than anything, more than anything
My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it
May your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small
You never need to carry more then you can hold
and while you're out there getting where you're getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too. This is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but you never forget
all the ones who love you, in the place you left
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret
and you help somebody every chance you get.
Oh, you find God's grace in every mistake
and you always give more then you take.
-“My Wish” by Rascal Flatts

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blood Infection plus Chemo equals YUCK!

I got the results back from some recent bloodwork and its turns out that I have another staph infection in my bloodstream.  (This time, caused by my picc line.)  It seems like my body really doesn’t react well to having objects placed inside of it.  They are still planning on giving me chemo #5 tomorrow, but I am on super strong antibiotics that have to be administered through IV.  So I have to be hooked up for about 3 hours each day, while I’m at home, in the hospital, and even when I come back home.  Not to mention that I’ll be experiencing the side effects of Vancomycin now along with the side effects of TAC chemo.  Please pray for me that I will have the strength to get through the next week, because I know that its going to be very rough.

Some days I feel like cancer has stolen so much from me.  I cry every time that I have to kiss my baby goodbye and go receive my treatments.  It’s hard because I feel like I am missing out on the little details of his life.  But I am thankful that my chemo regimen is only for 4 months, and I try to keep reminding myself that this situation is temporary.  I know that other people have to receive treatments for a much longer period of time.  I’m trying to look at cancer as an opportunity to draw closer to God, live with passion, develop a greater appreciation for life, and figure out how I want to spend the rest of mine.     

It’s sad that it sometimes takes the diagnosis of a life threatening disease for people to truly value their healthy lives.  People complain about work, but I wish that my body was strong enough to go to work every day.  People complain about their looks, but I wouldn’t even care, as long as I was healthy.  People complain about their kids being annoying, but I just hope that I’m here to watch mine grow up.  I want to experience every minute of it, even the “difficult” stages.  Money and material possessions seem so much less important to me now.  I just want to grow old with my perfect husband and have a happy family.   

Nobody knows how many days that they have left, and I feel like I have come face to face with my own mortality lately.  I’ve realized that I want to make every single day count.  I want them to be meaningful and exciting and fulfilling.  I will never just “go through the motions” without actually enjoying life again.  I have always liked this song, which is about filling your remaining days with what makes you happy!
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man, whatcha do? And he said...  
I went skydiving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying. 
And he said, someday, I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you've got eternity to think about what you’d do with it
What could you do with it?
What did I do with it?

“Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim Mcgraw

That's me skydiving in 2006, conquering my fear of heights!  =)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Look Good, Feel Better

As anyone with cancer will tell you, chemo treatments take a rough toll on your body and also your self-esteem.  You look in the mirror and barely recognize yourself because you don’t have any hair, your face looks too skinny, and your body has bruises and scars all over it.  Some days you even feel too sick to get dressed.  But on one of your “good days,” I want to suggest that you take the time to check out this site and attend a local “Look Good, Feel Better” session.  They are completely free, and today I decided to stop by the one closest to where I live.  I’m glad that I went… it was refreshing to see cancer patients come in looking sick and then leave feeling pretty, with a full makeover, and taking home a free bag full of nice makeup (Chanel, Bobby Brown, MAC, Mary Kay, etc).  I noticed that what changed the most in these ladies was their attitudes.  Once they were “pampered” they were just full of self confidence!  By the end of the session, it didn’t even look or feel like a room full of cancer patients anymore. 

For me, playing with makeup and putting together a cute outfit really cheers me up and makes me not feel like a “sick” person.  But on days that I just don’t have the energy for that stuff, I'm so blessed to have a husband who still thinks that I’m beautiful and loves me for who I am. While it certainly is fun to get all fixed up sometimes, it does not need to be a top priority, because true beauty is shown in the way that you act and treat others.  "You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

Today's session gave us a chance to feel good about ourselves, both inside and out.  We connected with others who are going through the same thing as us.  This raised everyone’s spirits, making everyone more positive and bringing out their personalities.  It was really nice for a change!

My bag of makeup, labeled "light" (meaning pale, like me!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Things are Looking Up

I had a great weekend, and that has put me in a wonderful mood!  On Saturday, we had some friends over to hang out.  Then the guys went out for a little while, giving us girls a chance to catch up and have some “girl talk”.  (Ryan didn’t mind being left with the girls, he was sleeping most of the time!)  My friends were so sweet to bring me dinner and stay in with me since I’m not supposed to go out with my low immune system.  We talked a lot about K’s upcoming wedding plans, and I got to give her some early bachelorette gifts.  This is because I will be stuck getting chemo next weekend, while the girls are going to a winery and doing other fun things (surprises!) I will miss you all so much and wish that I could be there!  I love you, K! <3

Today I was able to get my picc line fixed! Finally!!!! It is now fully functioning and that makes me so happy!  I feel like there is some hope of getting through the last 2 chemo treatments now! 

My mom came over during the afternoon and we got to hang out and play with Ryan.  I’ve noticed that when given the chance, Ryan has a tendency to choose to play with books over all of his other toys.  I love that he is developing a love for reading at such an young age.  (Even if it is just because he likes to flip the pages back and forth!)  I hope to become a reading specialist one day, so that is something that excites me.  I'm really looking forward to taking more grad school classes next year, after I get through all of this and things go back to "normal".

As of yesterday, I feel like my energy has returned and I’ve been feeling really good!  I hope to get out and enjoy the nice weather this week!  What a difference from how I felt at this time last week!

I recently found this article that discusses some recent advances in triple negative breast cancer research.  I find it interesting, because it seems like they are so close to finding new ways to treat TNBC.  This would make such a huge difference in so many women’s lives.  I pray that other treatment options become available for us within the next year or so!

Some pictures from this weekend...

thanks for such a fun time!

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