Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beading for Chemo

I saw this on the Cancer website.  A woman wore 16 beaded bracelets on her right arm.  After each chemo session, she moved one of the bracelets to her left arm, symbolizing one less round to go.  Since I have beads, I decided to make my own set, & have begun the process tonight.  Hopefully, on Tuesday, I'll get to move two, since I didn't move one from the first round.  I'm saying hopefully since they may want to start over - ugh.  We'll see.

However, this reminded me of my good friend, Deb Orzel, & her generous gift at the hospital.  She went out & bought a huge bouquet of mylar balloons (since some folks are allergic to latex).  Additionally, her little Jessica wanted me to have a teddy bar:
TOO CUTE!  And, Jessica, I still sleep with her.  Her name is Baby Jessica.

When it was time to go home, I realized that bringing all those balloons with me was going to take some doing.  We have what one could term a sport type car.  Matt couldn't figure out where to put them, without getting us in trouble with the police.  And that's when it hit me - give them to the residences of the floor.

After getting the OK from the nurses, I took my big ol' bouquet & went from room to room.  I spoke to people who were so happy to have something to brighten their rooms.  I spoke to a man who grudgingly LET me leave one in his room if it would make me happy.  Room after room, I spoke to other patients.  A man, noticing what I was doing, came up to me & asked if I'd give some to his dad's roommate who hadn't had a visitor since he'd been in.  Another scared young woman was all alone in PA.  I sat & held her hand & listened to her story.  I gave her my information so she can get in touch with me.  Another woman had just had a mastectomy & had a bunch of questions.  When I was out of balloons, I felt as if the air had been let out of my soul.  I wanted to stay & visit with all those people forever.  And you know, after I get better, I think that may be something I do.  Just go around & visit with folks.

ANYWAY, what started this little nostalgic trip down memory lane was that that experience gave me yet another idea.  I'm going to make a few extra bracelets to have on hand at chemo.  There have been women I've seen show up to chemo alone & leave alone.  I want to have a bracelet to give to them, just because.  Maybe that one little thing that cost me little but time will make a difference in her day.  Or, maybe she'll think I'm crazy.  You never know.  But you know what?  I'm getting off this computer right now & starting on my collection of sparkly beaded stretch bracelets.  Wish me luck!

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & the Funny

I’m still working on putting links up.  I told the ladies at the Look Good Feel ‘Better seminar that I found some low priced pashmina scarves.  I’ve also found mastectomy bras & prostheses cheap.  I’m working my butt off to get the link list up.  I’m double checking one or two of the people before I add them.  So, please bear with me here!

However, I promised that I’m dragging your butt along the way, & that you’re going to see the good, the bad, the ugly & the funny as it happens to me.  So, here’s the first slideshow of me sporting two scarves (tied differently), & one of my wigs, the short straight one.  And, even though I never planned to show me without anything on my head, I figured that wasn’t fair.  If you’re going through this with me, then I’m bearing it all.  I’ve added to the slideshow, & will try to keep it updated.  But, here’s what I’ve got so far!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Surgery in a Snowstorm

As I told you in the last post, surgery had to be done on Wednesday (Feb. 10th), as Dr. Morrissey was going to Canada for vacation the next day.  If my wound wasn’t closed, I couldn’t get chemo, & that’s extremely important right now.  I need to get back into that regimen, no matter how much I hate Neulasta!

The snow started Tuesday night, & we sat watching it with more than a little trepidation.  However, it was very light, & it seemed harmless enough.  The next morning, however, the world had turned into a winter wonderland.  The busy street we live on had been plowed, but it was still a strip of blinding white.  A big ol’ deserted strip of neon white that we could have landed a plane on without benefit of lights.  At times, it snowed so hard you could barely see the street at all.  I can’t tell you how much I wanted to stay home & watch it with the kids.

My surgery was scheduled for 3:30 pm, but I was sure that someone would cancel.  At least, I’d HOPED someone would cancel, so that my surgery time would be moved up.  That way, we’d have a shot at driving home before it got dark.

I called the hospital, but to my surprise found that everyone was reporting for surgery at their appointed times.  I was dumbfounded.  We’d tried EVERYTHING to move the date & time.  And I mean everything – including asking if Dr. Quiros (hi, Dr. Quiros & Charity!) would do it for me.  Sadly, surgeons don’t like to close other surgeons’ patients unless they absolutely have to.  I could have made an argument for “absolutely had to”, but, I decided to suck it up.

So, at 11:00 am, Matt declared that it was time to drive up.  He figured he’d rather be sitting in the hospital, safe & sound, waiting for surgery than waiting until closer to the appointed time, thus allowing for further snow build up, & possibly ending with the two of us in a ditch.  I couldn’t fault him for that, but, still, I wanted to buy as much time at home as humanly possible.

I was getting my things together, when the kids & Matt began adding “layers” to me.  They said things like, “Mom, you have to stay warm”.  By the time they had me stuffed, wrapped, & bundled, I felt like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, complete with arms sticking straight out at my sides.  But, if we ended up in a ditch, I would be warm for the rest of the winter.  Hibernation would be a breeze.

We decided to take Aubrie’s jeep, because it has 4 wheel drive.  Bonus for me, it was easier to get into than my little car.  I don’t think any amount of stuffing me into “Zippy Car” would have worked; short of using a sausage extruder. 

I’m really glad we took the jeep, though, for more reasons than ease of entry.  We passed people on hills, because they couldn’t get enough traction.  Normally, we would have stopped to help, but Matt had one thing on his mind – get me to surgery.

The crazy thing is, we made it to the hospital in one hour.  This is particularly amazing when you take into account that it takes us between 40 – 45 minutes on a good day!  However, I didn’t get taken to surgery until 4:45 – a full hour past time.  I guess a lot of people had serious surgery that needed to be done.  Of course, not as important as MINE & how dare they intrude on my surgery time!  Ok, I didn’t really think that - for very long.

Surgery went as well as could be expected.  Dr. Morrissey had a hard time closing me up, though, as the infection had done some damage to my skin.  He told me that the incision area wasn’t pretty, which I found funny.  I mean, really?  It wasn’t pretty to begin with, Doctor!  But, he promises to make it all better & I believe him.  Right now, though, I just want to be pronounced cancer free.  THEN, we’ll discuss boobage.  Major, major boobage.

The staff wanted to keep me overnight for two reasons.  They wanted to be sure that my pain was managed & that I was comfortable.  Translation – they could give me shots through my IV of some pretty excellent medications.  The secondary reason was due to the snow.

I, however, preferred going home.  And, since Matt was up for it, I was ready to go.  Apparently, every bed in the hospital was taken, so the fact that they made room for me was very sweet.  Unfortunately, I’d had my fill of hospitals for a while.  I didn’t care if I would have received better pain management there – I wanted to be home with my kid types.  Pain will pass; hopefully soon, though.  I’m still having pain, but it’s getting better. 

It was a pain in the butt – big time – to interrupt chemo & have yet another surgery.  But I met some wonderful people.  Besides, like I always tell the kids, everything happens for a reason.  It may be an annoying reason, but still . . . . 

On the bright side, at least I didn’t shoot my eye out. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Promise to Update!

I'm sorry, I know I didn't post since surgery.  I'm working on that story & will post hopefully later tonight.

In the meantime, I attended a seminar given by the Cancer Society today.  It was for women, & our instructors taught us how to tackle (& hide) some of the problems chemo & radiation will cause.  I met some lovely ladies there - HI, pretty ladies!!  The women who worked it were volunteers, & they all had really neat tips. But mostly, bless their hearts for their time. 

Also, did you know that the Cancer Society will buy one wig per patient?  We're provided a list of participating salons, then make an appointment, & a certified cosmetician will help choose a wig for our face shape.  AMAZING!  They also provide breast prostheses.  Plus, they have volunteers in our areas that will take us to get our treatment!!  I'll get as much information about all that up this week for you.   I'm also going to try to get a widget that will let folks donate to the Cancer Society.  Who knew they did so many wonderful things for those of us dealing with this horrible disease?

The other thing that I learned, though, is that some women don't know about places to get eyebrows, cheapest places to buy wigs, etc.  I know I've written about it in this blog, but it's been a while.  I've also found inexpensive cashmere scarves, mastectomy bras & prostheses.  So, look for a change soon.  I'm going to try to have the links showing where to find them on the first page of the blog.  This way, you won't have to scroll through the blog to find the links.  Give me a little time to get that up, though!

OK, look for my post about the surgery later tonight!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Surgery tomorrow

Yup, my surgery is still on for tomorrow at 3:30 pm.  Right smack dab in the middle of this snow storm that's expected to dump 2 feet of snow.  Dr. Morrissey is leaving for vacation on Thursday, so Wednesday is it.  In his defense, he was sooo cute.  He told Matt that he'd walk to the hospital to be sure that I get the surgery.  It's nerve wracking, though, since it takes 45 minutes to get to Bethlehem on a good day!  Yikes!

But, on the bright side, I'm having my surgery in Bethlehem - the town of miracles.

Set backs o' Plenty!

I’ve had another set back, which, of course, sucks.  But, it’s been my experience that life is chock full of them (& nuts, apparently).  Last Sunday, as I’d written, my incision began to swell.  I couldn’t have chemo due to the infection, & Dr. Morrissey operated on me Thursday night. 

As he said he thought he’d do, Dr. Morrissey left the wound open & has packed it.  Gotta tell you, though, the first time he unpacked it to re-do the whole thing (in the hospital), I saw stars!  He was really sweet about it, though; as usual.  I ended up staying in the hospital (St. Luke’s Quakertown) until Sunday morning.  The doctor was waiting for the results of cultures he sent to the lab, as he’d like to get to the bottom of what’s going on with me & infections.  Apparently, whatever it is isn’t horrible.  Pesky, annoying, & really, really inconvenient, yes, but deadly/horrible, not so much.

It was a pain (figuratively & literally), since we were having a nice snow storm that I’d been looking forward to spending with my family in front of our fireplace.  We’d even made sure we had hot chocolate, marshmallows, popcorn, & brownies at the ready.  Everyone knows that nothing celebrates a snow storm like massive quantities of sugar that includes, but is not limited to, several varieties of chocolate, saturated fats, & abundant sources of tasty, tasty salt.  But, instead of watching the snow from my sunroom, I watched it from my hospital room.  That kind of tanked, but, I managed to get a private room – it could have been worse.  Let’s just say Texas toast & sausage, then leave it at that (newbies, go back through my blog to my last hospital visit – if you dare)!

Now I have to have the wound re-sutured, &, of course, we’re having our second major snow storm in a week, & we’re talking 2 feet here people.  I’ll be spending that either driving through it to get to surgery, or dealing with it on the way home.  Hopefully, it’ll be ambulatory, which will mean I’ll still be able to enjoy the storm.  Of course, a lot of that will be thanks to heavy duty pharmaceuticals.  Just saying.  To top it off, I’ll be sent home with my ever present drain tube.  Man, just when you think you no longer need those cute drain bulb bags.  But, at least I’m used to them, & know how to take care of them.  So there’s that.

Right now, I’m waiting for a new surgery day/time.  All reports are that this is going to be a big, big storm.  Dr. Morrissey is leaving on vacation Thursday, so we have a very brief window of time to deal with.  Additionally, I’ve got to get back on track with my chemo.  

FYI – men in general have long held the belief that doing something, anything is better than nothing.  The word “diligence” is something they may have read a long, long time ago, but its meaning escapes them.  Matt, on the other hand, has heard of the word “patience”, but continues to labour under the belief that its sole definition is people in a hospital or under a doctor’s care.  Thus, waiting with Matt for a new surgery day & time has been about as pleasant as having a root canal without benefit of anesthesia; as he waits patiently – giggle!

Before I forget, remember that I cut my hair really, really short in anticipation of losing it during chemo?  I wasn’t losing it, though & was beginning to think I’d be the one girl in a million whose hair doesn’t fall out.  In the hospital, however, my dark hair decided to begin it exodus from my head & onto my bleached white sterile hospital linens.  I shed like a Golden Retriever in spring.  I’d wake up, & my pillow looked like it was made of hair & when I’d comb through it, I ended up with a large hair ball reminiscent of a chinchilla!  I was SOOO embarrassed. 

But, it held while I was in, so I was grateful for that.  It was, however, time to shave my head.  And I mean shave; my head is now bald. 

That was a weird, surreal experience.  I’ve spent months preparing for it, purchased four wigs to deal with it, & talked myself into actually thinking it would be fun not to have a river of hair to tame every morning.  And, frankly, it was pretty funny, but at the same time, it brought the fact that I’m facing cancer front & center.

I’ve bloviated long enough, & it was time to translate those action verbs into reality.  It’s tangible proof, looking in the mirror now.  There’s no putting the thought on the back burner of my mind any more.  Emotions & the human psyche take time to adjust.

The really lousy thing about it is that my children have to wrap their brains around this “new” mom.  Boy is having a very hard time dealing with it, although he tries to hide it.  In fact, this morning, he came into my room & watched me as I slept.  He was trying to get the visual to stick in his brain.  He’s used to his mommy always having big, Southern, in your face hair & make up, & he doesn’t know this bald GI Jane type that he’s looking at.  At least he & the girls are trying, & we're making jokes out of it.  Still, the reality is there, & staring at them in their adorable faces.  But, they're my kids & as such, have had to endure living with the Brunette Lucy.  This, hopefully, will be one more story to tell their kids about their crazy grandmother & all her silliness.

On the bright side, I do have several wigs to play with.  I need to get a little better at making them more, well, me.  You just can’t buy big Southern wigs these days unless your last name is Parton.  And until I get that “old mom smell” into my wigs, I’m going to have to try, try again.  It’s going to take a lot of money to look as cheap as I did.  But I’m confident I have the ability to git her done!  Lord knows, I have the reasons.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Back to the operating room I go!

Well, this sucks big time.  Dr. Morrissey saw me today, & said that there's no way to get the infection out other than through surgery.  Plus, he wants to re-submit tissue to determine what type of infection this is that keeps coming back.  This time, he said, I have to stay for at least 2 - 3 days.  Ugh.  That's because he may not suture the wound, but leave it open & pack it.  Then, I'll have to go back in to have it closed.  As for chemo, he told us that they won't give me chemo until this is treated.  That's why he's operating on me tonight - to get me up & walking around again so I can have the treatment.

The doctor was in surgery all morning, had afternoon office hours, then had a procedure in Bethlehem.  He'll be turning back around & coming to Quakertown to do my surgery @ 7:00 pm.  Gotta feel blessed to have such a good guy taking care of you!  It would be better not to have this happen again, though.  

Keep you posted!!
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