Monday, May 24, 2010

Drainage tubes and arm exercises!

This is the 11th day since the surgery. I've been home most of the time. I've had one doctor's appt. and a couple of trips to the store. I'm recovering very well. I am looking forward to getting these drainage tubes removed!! I have one on each side. They wrap around my breast (inside, under the skin), exit my side. There is quite a bit of tubing and at the end of that there is a plastic bulb that the excess fluid drains in to. I empty and measure the fluid during the day. When the drainage totals decrease to less than 30 cc in a 24 hour period, then the tubes can come out. Because of the drainage tubes, I have to sleep flat on my back.....not my favorite sleeping position. However, on the other side of the coin, I've not had any infection and I've not had alot of pain. I stopped taking the hydrocodone several days ago (the uncomfortable side effect of constipation helped wean me from that!), but thankfully extra strength tylenol does just fine. The only difference I noticed was that the hydrocodone (aka vicodin), caused drowsiness. Dad and Sue left on Saturday. We really enjoyed them while they were here and they were a great help. Sue was a tremendous help to me in the early days taking care of the drainage tubes and changing bandages. My arm exercises are going great. I can lift both arms over my head and do so repeatedly throughout the day to strengthen arm and chest muscles. From what I've been told, I'm doing remarkably well. I'm so grateful to God. We haven't had to worry about supper since the surgery. My wonderful daughter-in-law, Rachel, organized meals for us. Our friends have blown us away with their love and kindness. Who was it that said "he who has friends, is rich indeed"? We are very rich...

My follow up appt with Dr. Knox last week brought a very good report about the pathology of the breast cancer. It did not reach my lymph nodes, praise God! It was found to be in the milk ducts of every quadrant of my left breast (this was news to had not been detected by mammo or was in the very early stages). It had gone invasive (left the milk duct and ventured into surrounding breast tissue) in that one area where the lump was, and it was a small amount. It was classed as stage one, which was great news. The report also stated that the cancer was very near my skin. She plans on looking at the pathology slide and determining if she will go back and scrape more fatty tissue from the underneath side of the skin, or if I will go through some radiation. I will see her again this Wednesday and find out. I should also be hearing from The Bridge about an appt with an oncologist. I will find out about chemotherapy and when it will start. This is where the rubber is meeting the road, as the old saying goes. I'm taking it one step at a time. The Lord told me a few weeks ago to begin each day reminding myself that His grace is sufficient for me and that His mercies are new every day. Each morning my prayer goes something like, "Lord I receive your grace for me this day. You know what this day holds and you've provided your grace to me for today. I gather in your mercies that are new every morning. I serve a faithful God and I yield myself to you. May your will be done in my life this day."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Surgery over, back home!

The surgery went very well. For my first surgery and general anesthesia experience I would say it was good. When they took me into the surgery suite and transferred me from the transport bed to the operating table, I commented on how drowsy and woozy I felt. They said they'd given me something in my IV and the next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes in the recovery room!! My initial feeling was pain!! and nausea... I was in and out of consciousness for the duration of my recovery room time. I was moved into a room. Scott and all four of our boys were there along with my dad and sister in law, Sue. Scott told me that both surgeons (breast and plastic) were very pleased with the surgery. I have an appt with Dr. Knox on Wednesday. By then the pathology report will be back and I'll learn all the details about the cancer (stage, if it was in the lymph nodes, etc...) I am anticipating a good report and I know many, many people are praying for the same.
I am so pleased with how I look under the bandages. I have expander implants inside of my breasts. I don't look disfigured at all. I even have some nipple there. Dr. Knox removed the part of the nipple that is connected to the milk duct and left the areola. I have drainage tubes connected to little bags. We empty the bags throughout the day and record the amount of liquid that drains off. When the fluid amount decreases to a certain number of cc's in a 24 hour period, then the drainage tubes will be removed.

As I posted on fb, I tried extra strength tylenol first....but it wasn't touching the pain. Vicodin, however, is a wonderful little pill!!! I have it for pain and also an antibiotic to be on top of any infection. I'm so pleased with how everything is going. I need assistance to get from sitting or laying to standing, and I have plenty of help. My boys are precious and very helpful!! Scott helped me sponge bathe earlier today. I can't get the breast area wet as long as I have the drainage tubes in place. Sue and Scott help me clean the areas and put antibiotic ointment on it. The camisoles that Connie sent are a wonderful thing!! They have little pockets inside to hold the drainage pouches as well as front velcro closure. The nurses in the hospital had never seen one the these cami's.

God is so good....I have been blown away by the support, love and prayers of so many. It's humbling and very encouraging. I feel so blessed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Surgery is tomorrow. I spent the day running errands...last minute things. I was told I would want to use button down shirts and pajamas for the first few weeks post surgery. I managed to fit in a manicure and pedicure as well!! (which is a treat I give myself a couple of times a year!) Went to la Madeleine's with Sue for an early supper. Overall it was a very enjoyable day of shopping and pampering!!

Tomorrow will begin for me at 4 am!! Leave here at 5 to get to Baylor by 6. Will receive an injection into my lymph nodes. Then we will go to Mary Shiels hospital where the surgery will take place. I am doing fine with all of this. Surrounded by His peace. It really does pass understanding. I feel enveloped by Him. I know I'm not too far into this journey, but already the things I'm learning and experiencing about God are so worth it all. I don't know what it is about suffering or trials or anything that rocks your world...that enables you to go deeper in the Lord in a way that you just don't otherwise. I was just reading in my Streams in the Desert devotional and yesterday's reading was so good. Psalm 66:12 "We went through fire and through water: But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place." The devotional talked about the rest and peace that can be attained through God when we press through conflict in our lives. I relate. I look at circumstances in our life right now and on the other hand I look at the peace of God we are experiencing in the midst of the circumstances. God amazes me.

I hope what I'm about to share isn't too personal!! I'm about to lose my breasts....... So far, I am okay about that. At this point in my life I am very comfortable in my skin. At the risk of sounding cliche-ish...I'm more than my breasts!! Scott has been so wonderfully supportive, which is no surprise to me...he is just that way. I was saddened by the stories I've heard from The Bridge about some husbands who threatened to leave their wives if they had a mastectomy....I can't imagine that. Anyway, I said "so far I'm okay about that" because I realize the first time I see myself after surgery, I may experience grief. Or a couple of weeks from now it may hit me. If so, I'll go with it...after all it is part of my body that will be gone. But I don't want to stay there. I'm looking forward to continuing on in this journey. After all, when you're on a journey you don't stop and put down roots until the journey is completed. I'm looking forward to experiencing deeper insights into God, deeper trust and love.

I want to thank everyone for their prayers. I really believe one reason I'm doing so well is due to the prayers of so many. We'll update tomorrow on facebook. As of now, I plan on updating this blog sometime on Friday.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Two days until the surgery. Counting it down!! I realized last week that I've never been under general anesthesia before. I think it will go by quickly (for me, that is!). The doctor said it should last around 5 hours. It's really happening! My dad and sister-in-law Sue arrive tomorrow. My sister, Connie, ordered special camisoles for me that arrived today.

How am I doing? By the grace of God I can honestly say that I'm fine. When I realized I'd never been under general anesthesia before, I felt a little apprehensive. I reminded myself that God will be with me, He's promised to never leave us. On Saturday I was spending time with the Lord and I saw myself on the operating table and there were 2 angels in the room. One was seated to the left of my head, kind of leaning forward watching the surgery. The other one was behind the surgeon. They were huge men. One was dark haired and the other blondish brown. They were in street clothes--no gowns or wings, but I knew they were angels. I saw this in a split second....and I was filled with reassurance and all apprehension left. I was reminded of the verse in Psalm 91 that says "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways" God reminded me that even when I'm not in control/aware/conscious.....He is. I can close my eyes in peace. He is such a faithful God. I love Him so much.

One of my absolute favorite groups is Hillsong. Their Desert Song chorus says:
"All of my life
in every season,
You are my God...
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship"

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Encouraging Scripture

Over the years I have prayed a particular scripture over people who were very ill. We obviously don't know the will of God in all things, and this verse just works so well in those circumstances. It is Ps. 139:16 and it says (NIV) "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." What comfort!! Particularly concerning this cancer that is within my body. What this verse speaks to me is that before I was even born, God ordained a certain number of days for my earthly life. As I stand on His Word and picture myself in His arms, I can be (and I am) at peace. Cancer isn't bigger than God is!!!! He is so HUGE! He who created, numbered and named each star in the heavens also breathed into a lump of clay and created human life. He has a plan and purpose for each life He created.

I was excited when I recently read what a breast cancer survivor wrote. Concerning this same scripture, she says, "So, if we think cancer can rob us of even one day, then we are saying cancer has more power than God. In putting the power where it the Lord, then there is peace and not fear. You will have every day God intended for you, the power is in the ONE who numbered your days." She goes on to say, "When we choose to see God and not our circumstances, then we can rest in our faith in God and amazing things can happen to us."

I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness. When this all began and I knew the possibilities, I also knew fear. Panic and anxiety are close friends of fear. And let's not forget cousin worry. They are all related. However, they have a way of scattering and losing their grip on you when you trust in God. And you know who's related to trust? Rest, peace and calmness!! They take up residence in your soul and spirit. I've known both groups....I'll take trust and his gang any day over the fear group. You know what was a major factor in me getting to a place of trust and rest in Him? His Word. Reading the Bible, coming across promises and then standing on them. Praying them. Seeing God's love and faithfulness exhibited through scripture. Trusting Him. I am experiencing peace that passes understanding.... He is so faithful.

In the way of a health update, I feel great. Surgery will be next week (Thursday). All of my tests and scans came back fine. Dad and Sue (my sister-in-law) will be coming next week prior to the surgery. They will be staying a week or two to help take care of me. We are all looking forward to visiting with them. I'm enjoying working on my flowers and herbs. I have quite a few containers on the patio with more envisioned!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And the Journey Begins.....

I found the lump quite by accident. It was early January 2010. We had just moved and were still unpacking. Scott and I were unpacking groceries. I was putting the refrigerated items away. Scott tossed me a package of cheese (sandwich slices). He caught me off guard and the cheese hit my breast....and it hurt!! Needless to say we shared a laugh over it. However, later that evening as we lay in bed I rubbed my breast where the cheese had struck me (it was tender) and that is when I found the lump. The cheese hit me right where the lump was. Although I was alarmed, fear did not overtake me and I was able to go to sleep. The next morning I got up early to pray and spend time reading my Bible. The lump was foremost in my mind. I read some notes from my journal. Somewhere along the way I had written a notation on Hosea 2:14 "Sometimes we are led into the desert by God." Then I looked at the next page in my journal and I had recorded Is. 43:1-3, 5 "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.....Do not be afraid, for I am with you". The Lord gave me peace. I sensed this was going to be a journey....a desert experience...but I also knew that He was with me.
During the next several weeks I visited my GYN, who recommended a mammogram and possible ultrasound. I had the mammo and ultrasound...the radiologist didn't like what he saw and ordered a biopsy in both breasts...they found a couple of suspicious areas in my other breast. I had the biopsy and the next day I found out that there was cancer in my left breast. Invasive ductal carcinoma and in situ carcinoma. The right breast biopsy came back benign, but would require screening every 6 months.
It was at this point that I was accepted by The Bridge, an organization that enables women with breast cancer who do not have health insurance to seek treatment. I can't say enough good things about them. They are kind, caring, compassionate women. I'm so grateful for the doctors who participate in this program as well as the hospitals, labs and imaging centers.
Fast forward to present time. My breast surgeon is Dr. Sally Knox. She has scheduled me for a double mastectomy Thursday, May 13th. I opted to have my right breast removed since it has suspicious areas that require close monitoring. Dr. Knox and her staff connected me to the Daniely Foundation which helps women with breast reconstruction. Prior to this I was planning on using breast prosthesis. However, I am now scheduled for reconstruction on the day of the mastectomy. Or should I say phase I of reconstruction. It will be completed once chemotherapy is over (estimated at 5-6 months away).
There are times I can't believe this is happening to's surreal. But it is real. I never expected this. However, I have a choice how I am going to face it. I could easily slip into anger, resentment, self-pity....and FEAR. My other choice is to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, and to believe Him when his word says He causes all things to work together for my good. To believe Him when his word says He will fulfill his purpose for me. To believe Him when he says he will never leave me or forsake me. I choose to trust Him. I choose Him.