My Mastectomy. Breast Cancer journey almost over.

Are you facing treatment for Breast Cancer?  Have you been filled with horror stories about what is ahead for you?

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy?  There are frightening stories of people constantly vomiting and being severely nauseous from the Chemo.  Humiliated and discouraged over the loss of head hair.  Having no strength or stamina to take care of normal everyday duties.  Fatigue that is constant and debilitating.  The kind which you can’t get out of bed except to go to the bathroom and that is difficult in and of itself.

I don’t have any experience with the radiation therapy, as of yet.  So I can’t speak to that treatment.

If I had to recommend a place to be treated for breast cancer, it would be OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The OU Physician Center, Stephenson Cancer Center, OU Surgical Center, OU Medical Center, and Stephenson Infusion Center have the most caring staff I have ever dealt with.

From my experience, my attitude had everything to do with the low amount of side effects I had with all of my treatments, from the initial diagnosis.  Pain was at a low level and was tolerable.  That is until my last rounds of Chemo when I was switched to a different type.  My breast cancer was a temporary medical problem. The end result was always going to be a mastectomy.

Look, to be honest, the process is a bit scary.  What are the doctors and nurses going to be doing to me?!  Does my boob get whacked off today?  When does the Chemo come in?

You can do tons of research on the internet about breast cancer and the treatments of it.  Every person is different, and every cancer diagnosis is different.  Treatment protocols are different depending on the cancer Stage and type.

Let me tell you!  There are many different types of breast cancer.  I thought there was just one…breast cancer.  Check out this page from breastcancer.org “Types of Breast Cancer.

Some people have an attitude that “This is only temporary and won’t rule my life forever”, while others are totally freaked out by the diagnosis and have an attitude that is, more or less, “Poor me.  My looks are going to be ruined and no one will ever love me again!”

Some people have a very low tolerance for pain.  The growing cancer tumor in the breast would, possibly, be extremely painful to some.  For me, it was a sporadic slight burning sensation that lasted from one to two seconds in the beginning.  Later, as it grew the burning pain would last longer even though it was still sporadic – not a constant pain.  Up to 10 seconds.  It was very uncomfortable.  Not so uncomfortable that it stopped me doing my  normal daily activities or interfered with my truck driving job.

I had my first breast biopsy on June 27, 2016.  Ultrasound guided breast biopsy is what I had.  I had several of this type of biopsy done before Chemo started.  I was given a local anesthetic for each biopsy to lessen the pain caused by the steel needle injected into the breast and directly into the cancerous tumor.  Three core samples were taken with each biopsy.  The next day my breast would be painful and I would need a pain pill – two at the most for the week.

I had a PET Scan on July 22, 2016.  This scan was from my head to about mid thigh to see if my breast cancer had spread to other parts of my body.  Being a 40 year pack a day smoker the scan would spend quite a bit of time on my head and chest area before going down to the lower extremities of my body.  My head and chest were clear of any worrisome markers.  My stomach had a spot that needed to be checked, there was a questionable spot on top of one of my kidneys, and there was a dark black spot on my right hip bone that would need to be checked.

On August 8, 2016 I had a Bone Biopsy of my right hip joint.  Each of these radio-logical procedures were a bit frightening to me.  I had not had prior experience with any of these giant machines and didn’t know what to expect.  Having a bit of claustrophobia I was more terrified of being stuck in a tight tube than I was of the procedures.  The results of the hip bone biopsy were negative…no cancer in the hip.

On August 11, 2016 I had a Stomach Scope to check the dark spot shown in the PET Scan.  Turns out I had a bit of an ulcer which was treated with a course of antibiotics.  No cancer in my stomach.

On August 19, 2016 I had another breast biopsy and my first round of Faslodex shots to stop the growth of my cancer.  My cancer tumor was continuing to grow, causing the underside of my left breast to be swollen and purple.  My type of breast cancer was hormone related.  Meaning that this cancer fed off of estrogen in my body, and sugars from my liver.  The Faslodex would inhibit estrogen from being made in my body.

On September 2, 2016 I had my second round of Faslodex.  Turns out this treatment was not as effective as my doctors had hoped it would be.

I had another breast biopsy on September 24, 2016 to see how much growth the tumor continued to have.  It was growing quite a bit and was very uncomfortable.  On September 26, 2016 my Oncologist, Dr. Sobia Nabeel,  decided that I would be put on a Chemo regimen.  That would be determined after I had a Heart Scan.  This scan would let my Oncologist know if my heart was healthy enough for the rigors of Chemotherapy.

On October 7, 2016 I had a surgical procedure to install a Chemo Port in my right upper chest.  This was done as an outpatient procedure.  It was quite uncomfortable for a few days after it was placed under my skin.  I had some difficulty sleeping on my right side with the port being in the way of my comfort.

Chemo Port implant

Chemo Port implant

October 12, 2016 began my Chemotherapy treatments of DoxirubicinYou can read my blog post about that here.  November 1, 2016 I was admitted to the hospital for a Urinary Tract Infection that had gone septic.  I spent November 1 to 6 in the hospital under very good care.  The fluids they pumped into me caused my body to swell until I thought I was going to POP!  October 26, 2016 was my second round of the Red Devil – Doxirubicin that lead to the UTI and subsequent hospital stay.

Just so I know that they have the "Big Guns" going...I guess

Just so I know that they have the “Big Guns” going…I guess

December 23, 2016 my chemo drug was changed from Doxirubicin to Paclitaxel or Taxol.  My last Taxol treatment was on January 23, 2016.  This Paclitaxel or Taxol as the nurses called it, was supposed to be not as bad as the Doxirubicin.  I had not had any bad side effects with the Doxirubicin, other than losing my hair.  So in my way of thinking the Taxol was going to be a breeze.  Uhm, not quite.  I had a lot of bone pain with the Taxol.  I swear, there was someone in the Stephenson Cancer Center that had a voodoo doll made just for me.  That person had one job and that job was to jab a pin in the doll at any place they wanted and for how long they wanted.

The pains from the Taxol were sharp, intense, and lasted no longer than 10 seconds.  That 10 seconds was quite exciting!  The little bone at your outside ankle, know where I’m speaking of?  That was one place that would be frequently hit by the sharp, intense, pain.  Within minutes after the ankle, between by ear lobe and jaw bone the next pain would show up.  That one brought me up in my seat or stopped me from moving.  A few minutes later my left mid thigh bone – femur I think it is called – would have the sharp and intense pain.  Not quite as bad as Liam Neeson had done in the movie Taken.  Just in the same general area.

After that last chemo treatment my doctor visits began to slow down.  I have not had any further breast biopsies.  I did have a Mammogram of both breasts on January 24, 2016 to see if the cancer was still growing or if the chemo drugs had done their job.  The radiologist came to me after the procedure was finished to say, had there not been a marker placed in my breast during the first biopsy she would not have known that I even had a cancerous tumor.  There was nothing there.

Although the Chemotherapy was rough on my body….tired all the time, extremely low energy levels, not being able to keep up with daily household chores, and being knocked down and out if I overdid some housework.  Which means if I spent longer than 10 minutes on housekeeping duties for the entire day then I was whacked for that day and into the next.  I did not have a lot of trouble with the Chemotherapy.

The next part of my cancer treatment was to have the Mastectomy.  When a breast gets lopped off, how does the surgeon put skin back over the wound?  That is the question I asked my surgeon’s nurse.  She had to hide a giggle at my question to remain professional.  🙂

The procedure is not what I had envisioned.  My surgeon, Dr. William Dooley  has been so good at explaining everything to me.  He has a tall cart with a laptop.  He types stuff as we talk about my tumor growth, the Chemotherapy, the biopsies, why I have the same shot of pain in the exact same area of my right breast as I have with the cancerous left breast.  Per Dr. Dooley, the nerves coming from the spinal column at my breast height connects the two breasts together.  What one feels the other does as well.

On the day of my Mastectomy he took a bit more time to let me know what he was going to do.  He was going to cut all the way,  horizontally, across my left breast to near my arm pit.  The skin was going to be rolled upward to my collar bone and the lower skin was going to be rolled down to my ribs.  Dr. Dooley would then remove all the of the breast tissue, go down into the muscles to take some of them away, and then go into my arm pit area to remove the lymph nodes both Dr. Nabeel and Dr. Dooley found to have cancer in them.

This whole procedure was done in an Outpatient Surgery Center.  Once I came out of the Recovery Room without any problems I was taken to a monitoring area while the drugs were further wearing off and I was no longer talking gibberish.  Joe was waiting for me when I arrived.  About 30 to 45 minutes later I was discharged and sent home.  I was home at a little after 1:00 p.m.  Surgery was at 8:15 a.m., we were told to arrive at 6:30 a.m. for all the prep needed before the surgery.  So all tolled it was 6 1/2  hours then home.

My left breast is sunken in the center.  I have two drains, one comes from way up in my arm pit and the other comes from the surgical area.

 

Image result for mastectomy drains

Photo courtesy of Susan G. Komen Mastectomy The Procedure.

I have to drain the bulbs three times a day and record the amount of fluid removed from each bulb.  Joe is really good at doing this for/with me.

I have the most comfortable bra on…yes you read that correctly!  It has two pockets that hang down from the bra.  The pockets are to hold the drain bulbs.  Why, oh why, did it take having a mastectomy to find a bra that fit well?!

Image result for mastectomy drains and bras

Photo courtesy of Surgery Supplements.

Dr. Dooley told me I would have “muscle spasms” that would burn.  Let me tell you, he got the burn part right but I don’t know if it is muscle spasms or not.  At my arm pit I will get one (excuse me) hellacious burning sensation that lasts about 15 seconds.  Typical example is a burn from the hot oven when your arm touches the oven rack.  That kind of a burn sensation!

I have read in the literature supplied to me that it will be several WEEKS of recuperating from this major surgery.  I am not to life anything that weighs more than a gallon of milk – about 8 pounds.  No strenuous activity.  Lots of rest.

I do some of the cooking.  Joe has done a bit of it as well.  He asks if I need help, or he will ask if he can help me.  He doesn’t make a nuisance of himself asking me that question frequently.  I get really testy and nasty if he does that.

As far as actual “PAIN” goes.  I’ve had a C-Section and that pain is bad enough to make your ears ring and you cry for days.  I don’t have that kind of pain with this mastectomy.  The reason I think is because with a C-Section your stomach muscles are used to sit up, stand up, walk, bend over, reach for things, and just general all around use of the muscles.  The chest muscles are not used so much as the stomach.  Thus, almost no pain.  That is until I press on or near the surgery site.  YIKES!  OUCHY, OUCHY, OUCHY!

All in all, I am doing well.  This seven month journey has not been all bad.  I have been blessed with professional help all along the way.  Doctors, nurses, reception staff, and all the other support staff in the Infusion Centers, Oncologist and Surgeon office, medical testing areas – radiological testing and procedures.

All this to say that I am doing well and nearing the end of my breast cancer treatment.  Although everything that has happened and been done in this treatment regimen has not been terribly bad….I don’t want to go through this again that is for sure.

Well that is my refresher on events and a current update.  This has been three days in the making and it is now finished.  Blah blah blah I know.

Leslie

 

DIY Flowers from scraps

Flowers from scraps using punches

Flowers from scraps using punches

This is a “fiddly” project.  I am an impatient person and this took quite a long time to do.  Punching the scrap paper is quick and painless.  LOL

Flower punch 1

Flower punch 1

Flower punch 2

Flower punch 2

Flower punch 3

Flower punch 3

My steady hands for taking photos began to suffer as I progressed, so please forgive the blurred photos.

I separated each type of flower in a pan I am using as the “assembly” station for the various punched items.  I tried to shape them a bit with the stylus tool on a mouse pad.  Meh, they are no longer flat.

Punched flowers waiting for assembly

Punched flowers waiting for assembly

Using a paper piercing tool and a brad to hold the pieces together….I selected three flowers, layered them, then drove the piercing tool through the centers.  This makes the hole for a brad to complete the assembly.

Three flower pieces, a brad, and a paper piercing tool

Three flower pieces, a brad, and a paper piercing tool

Piercing the layers

Piercing the layers

I refer you back to the first photo of the assembled flowers.  Fiddly!  They look pretty good though.

I had quite a number of the smaller punched flowers left over.  Heading for the “Bling” cupboard in my room I brought out my SELDOM used half back rhinestones and pearls.  Each time I go to Michaels I stroll along their $1 and $1.50 bins.  Shiny stuff always ends up in my basket.  When I get home with it I always as myself “What the HECK were  you THINKING?!”

Hey, today I get to use up some of my half back rhinestones and pearls that have been hanging around for a number of years.

Bucket of "Bling"

Bucket of “Bling”

Red half back rhinestones

Red half back rhinestones

Blue half back rhinestones

Blue half back rhinestones

Yellow half back rhinestones

Yellow half back rhinestones

Green half back pearls and rhinestones

Green half back pearls and rhinestones

I am getting quite an assortment of coordinating embellishments to go in the Envelope Mini with photos.  I don’t know when that will be happening.  :/

Embellishment stash is growing!

Embellishment stash is growing!

Well, this is all for today.

Leslie

DIY Embellishments from paper scraps and stickers

Handmade embellishments

Handmade embellishments

This week I have been working on getting “coordinated” embellishments made for the Envelope Mini Album I have been working on.

I can’t seem to muster the strength to get a video made for joining the three signatures of the Envelope Mini with spine pieces.  Not just that, I can’t seem to muster the strength for much of anything.

Anyway – on to the reason for this post.  Enough crying about my life right now.

I bought some baby stickers from Tuesday Morning, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby long before Christmas.  I want to take the plain stickers and give them a “home” to live.  A showcase for the art work.

Chipboard stickers from Tuesday Morning

Chipboard stickers from Tuesday Morning

Mix of Chipboard and flat stickers from Michaels

Mix of Chipboard and flat stickers from Michaels

Chipboard and card stock stickers from Michaels

Chipboard and card stock stickers from Michaels

I have scraps!  Ranging in size from 1-1/2 inch by 7 inches, 1/4 inch by 7 inches, and 1-1/2 inch by 3 inches.

Scrap pieces from the Envelope Mini

Scrap pieces from the Envelope Mini

1-1/2 inch by 7 inches

1-1/2 inch by 7 inches

1/4 inch by 7 inches

1/4 inch by 7 inches

1-1/2 inches by 3 inches

1-1/2 inches by 3 inches

I’ve made rosettes from the 1-1/2 inches by 7 inch strips.  Using the “B*@&(}d” hot glue gun and clear liquid glue, lace trim was added to the back side of the rosette and a chipboard sticker piece to the front.  One of the 1-1/2 inch by 3 inch pieces was included to create one of those fish tail thing-a-ma-bobs.

Rosette with lace trim

Rosette with lace trim

Rosette with lace trim and a fish tail

Rosette with lace trim and a fish tail

Various punches have been used on the scrap pieces as I have attempted to layer multiple items together for visual interest.

Tag punch and a Martha Stewart border punch

Tag punch and a Martha Stewart border punch

1 inch circle punch, 1-1/2 inch oval punch

1 inch circle punch, 1-1/2 inch oval punch

1-1/2 inch Scallop punch

1-1/2 inch Scallop punch

Some of the larger stickers are featured on their own.

Black card stock scrap

Black card stock scrap

Black card stock, Martha Stewart punch, 1/4 inch colored scrap

Black card stock, Martha Stewart punch, 1/4 inch colored scrap

1-1/2 by 7 inch scrap for fish tail, 1-1/4 by 5-1/2 inch card stock scrap

1-1/2 inch by 7 inch scrap for fish tail, 1-1/4 inch by 5-1/2 inch card stock scrap

I have a whole slew of photos of my precious granddaughter.  One of them is of her homecoming and being greeted by Daisy the Dachshund along with Bogie the Boxer.  I have a chipboard paw print from my stash of many many years.  Stick it atop a rosette, add a fish tail to the back and I have a special embellishments just for the “Welcoming Committee” 😀

Embellishment for the "Welcoming Committee"

Embellishment for the “Welcoming Committee”

This embellishment creating is something I can do.  Work on these things for an hour or two until my fingers feel like the tips are going to explode and my feet are filled with firework sparklers.  Spend some time in my recliner to get the pressure off for a while then go back at creating a few hours later.

Normally, I would have that 9 inch by 13 inch cake pan full of stuff in one day and ready to go on with something else the next.  Hey, at least I am getting something done!  That makes me happy.

Now, if I could go through the Facebook posts, messages, and notifications without falling asleep within 30 minutes…that would make me less guilty of abandoning my friends and family.

Give this sticker embellishment thing a try.  See what you can come up with using scraps and things from your stash.  I bet you can make some truly amazing things that will look like you bought them from the store.  *fist pump*

Leslie

Breast Cancer Update – January 8, 2017

I have two more chemotherapy treatments to finish this part of my breast cancer treatment.

The first round of chemotherapy was with Doxirubicin, otherwise known as the “Red Devil”.

Doxorubicin - Red Devil

Doxorubicin – Red Devil

I am now midway through the next chemotherapy phase, known as Paclitaxel or “Taxel” for short.  This chemo has its own bag of nasty tricks.  The “additives”, I’ve been told, cause many immediate side effects that have to be monitored by the RN administering this drug.  Hives, red rash, trouble breathing, and unsafe effects on the bone marrow to name just a few.

The RN monitors me for 15 minutes as this chemo is administered.  I have to let the nurse know if I feel like passing out, have chest pain, a fast heartbeat, she watches for signs of flushing (face turning red), a slow heartbeat, a bad headache, any belly pain, upset stomach or needing to throw up, and a few other things that would require immediate intervention.

There is a bell placed next to me on an arm rest table.  The kind of bell one sees at a hotel front desk.  I am instructed to begin dinging that bell when I begin to have any of the side effects associated with this wonderful chemo.

To counteract these side effects I am given a dose of Benedril through my Chemo Port.  That stuff knocks me out within a mere minute or two.  I couldn’t ring that bell if my life depended on it.  That is why the RN hovers for 15 minutes over me.

Chemo day is about six hours long in the chair.  About three of those hours is spent in La La Land.

At the start of my chemo treatments my breast was swollen and purple.  The whole things was hard as a rock.

My left breast

My left breast

Now the breast has pretty much gone back down to normal.  The purple is gone and the tumor has shrunk quite noticeably.

My breast after chemo therapy

My breast after chemo therapy

With both the Doxirubicin and the Paclitaxel I have to have a dose of Neulasta 27 hours after the chemo.  This little device is placed on my stomach and remains there until the drug has been administered.  There is a green flashing light as the little machine counts down the minutes to deliver the dosage.  In the dark of night that light is quite bright!

Neulasta

Neulasta

This photo was taken long ago….when I still had hair.  When it is time for the drug to be  given the machine makes a tone of four beeps.  It takes a few minutes before it is finished and another set of tones go off to let me know it is done.  That little bugger has a needle that plunges into me shortly after it is placed on my body.

When the time is up and the drug is finished I get to take it off.

The needle of the Neulasta machine

The needle of the Neulasta machine

I had been told I would experience “bone pain” from both the chemo and the Neulasta.  Nobody told me there is a “Voodoo Doll” someone is in control of.

Voodoo Doll for my bone and body pain

Voodoo Doll for my bone and body pain

Throughout the days and nights I get sharp, piercing,  pains which last 8 to 10 seconds.  Below my ear (right or left) at the jaw.  In a hip joint (right or left).  Deep in the collar bone (right or left), any one of my ten fingers will get a pain so intense that gets worse when I shake it.  An ankle (right or left) will be shot with pain.

This is an all day, everyday, thing.  There is no rhyme or reason for the sharp pain.  Nothing that can be counted on, like a localized ache or pain.

Then there is the most irritating one of all.  During the night I will get a Charlie Horse in the middle of my back.  A circle of muscular spasms that hinder my breathing.  This bonus lasts up to six hours and there is nothing I can do to stop it.  If you have ever had one of those really good stretches.  You know the one with your whole body involved in the stretch.  It feels so good….until you get a muscle spasm.  Well just think of that discomfort lasting for six  hours.

I don’t get much sleep due to these aches, pains, and spasms.  I tried to not be such a pain in the butt during the Christmas and New Year festivities but I could not help myself being grumpy, testy, and wanting to find a hole and crawl in.

I have not been on Facebook during this time.  Each time I make an attempt to catch up with all of my friends and family I get overwhelmed by the whole flaming mess of this thing.

I’m trying to work up the energy to make the next video in my series of “Envelope Mini Album – Kathy Orta Style”.  The last video I really SCREWED UP big time in one of the steps I did.  I have to get that corrected and show the fix…..or what to do instead of what I said to do.  Good grief.

It has taken me well over a week to make the three signatures.

Three signatures for the Envelope Mini

Three signatures for the Envelope Mini

The spine pieces made to join these signatures together.

The four spine pieces

The four spine pieces

I’m not sure when I will get this ready and  uploaded to my YouTube channel.  Today I have some energy to spend in explaining my long absence from all of my friends and family.  Please be patient with me.

I have my next to last chemo treatment Monday – January 9, 2017.  My last treatment will be on or around January 23, 2017.  On January 24 I will have a consultation with my Surgeon to set a date for my Mastectomy.  So please don’t count on me to be an active player in Social Media for at least another several weeks.

Thank you all for your patience and your concern for me.  I appreciate each and every one of you very  much.

Leslie

I gained 18 pounds

OF WATER in the hospital and have an unquenchable thirst!  How can that be?

At the hospital I was able to have ice chips to suck on when this terrible thirst would occur. 

Sometimes my stomach/chest would be so full of fluids I could hardly breathe. My belly so distended I could not get out of bed. 

They diluted my Potassium levels enough I had to have the “horse pill” size supplement….two of them at a time just before my discharge. 

I got home yesterday afternoon about 2 pm and was on the hunt for something to sip on.  Gatorade, while cold, was wonderful the first three giant sips. Sugar content in the Gatorade quickly gave me cotton mouth which worsened the thirst. If that was even possible!

Once again, Joe became “My Hero”!  He was long gone from home when I arrived. On his way to Nashville, Tennessee. Our wonderful neighbor, Hugh, picked me up at the hospital. Prearranged by Joe. 

So how would Joe be of help and not even here?  The better question is….how did he know 12 years ago the Christmas present he bought would be just what I need right now?!

He bought a Cuisinart “Smart Stand” small kitchen appliance. Comes with a mini food processor and an immersion blender. 


Fill the bowl with ice cubes…..


Pulse the stick thing until…..


You have perfection!


Just enough large chips to chew on, mostly really great slush!


Anything sweet leaves me with cotton mouth.  Dasani Drops are out for now. 


So no Snow Cones 😖 for now. My feet and legs are so swollen right now. Excuse the bad pedicure….actually no pedicure. 


So…..what am I GRATEFUL FOR?

  1. I am home from the hospital!
  2. No day and night blood pressure and temperature checks. 
  3. Praise God, no more IV Fluids. 
  4. I had a shower in the hospital which felt great. 
  5. I had a luxurious shower this morning in my home without fear of the blood pressure nurse coming for me. 
  6. A Thank You Tote was given to everyone that tended me.  One of the Room Service people had been given one previously that I did not remember. I ran all out of assembled supply packets when she came with my tray. I was distressed she was being left out. She got hers the day before. 
  7. My neighbor came to the hospital to bring me home. He even carried in my cra….stuff. 
  8. Joe and his Cuisinart Smart Stand so I can have chipped ice at home. 
  9. I can make it myself when I need it, not wait for a member of nursing to bring it. 
  10. Sleep in my recliner as I need to. Not the waterbed for a while. I would pee myself trying to get out of bed. 

I sent him on a treacherous mission

And he prevailed!  My hero!

It nearly did him in though. 


As my 103 degree fevers were reducing and I was on the way to healing it was time to ask Joe if he would take on a dangerous mission. 

He would need to go into a potentially unsafe environment. Obstacles could cut into his ankles. Tripping hazards are definitely something he will need to watch for. There will be near lethal attacks coming from hidden spaces. 

His objective is to enter this hostile space, get his information via phone only. He will need to follow instructions while keeping an eye on dangers. 

First request:  Scrapbook Tote. Under the table to the right. Too late he was told about the the first hazard. An over full and unstable large baking pan ready to fall at the least bit of provocation. 

Success:  he did topple the baking pan, some items attacked his toes. 


He would need to extract two items first before he could safely go for the next objective. 

Leaning against the large cupboard door is a large guillotine trimmer and a large scorning board. These are to go in the scrapbook tote. 


Next was to get the Sizzix Texture Boutique.  Open the left door. Look about chest height to see the blue purse. Make sure to get the two black plastic and one thin white plastic piece. 


Next, carefully turn around and go to the desk surface. To the left next to my heat embossing machine are the embossing folders needed. 


Still at the table, look to the top left to find an odd grey and turquoise board. For better clarification on what is needed, he was to locate an orange paper trimmer then take the piece needed. 


The final item would be found on the table top somewhere. A pink strip of paper, one inch wide with writing on it. 


He needed help to find a very specific paper pad. 


Joe did his usual excellent job at being my Superman. He even brought with him our daughters. Via the excellent care I have been given at the hospital AND the arrival of extra love from the girls I am healing well enough that I may be going home tomorrow. 

My extra love and support team. Tiffany and Keri. 



Since the arrival of my tools I have made my signature 3×3 note totes to thank everyone that has done something for me in one manner or another. 


Eight nurses, eight techs who supplied me with top notch care. The first two days they willingly brought Sprite and Chicken Noodle Soup with crackers to ease the absolutely unreal sensations of nausea and extreme hunger. Each nurse and tech received a Thank You Tote. 

During all this mayhem I’ve had four housekeepers taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom and shower, cleaning the sink, sweeping and mopping the floor, and sanitizing the tray table. During this process I had to leave because the aromas of chemicals was overpowering. Each housekeeper got a Thank You Tote. 

The four Room Service people that brought the food trays received a Thank You Tote. 

Hopefully I will be going home tomorrow.  I am so swollen from all the fluids I have been given. My feet and ankles look about ready to pop. I have pressure cuffs on my legs. These things have airbags that expand and deflate. Each leg gets a tight squeeze then release then switches to the next leg. 


This little patch of misery will pass and I will be home recuperating.  Thank you to all of my Facebook friends and family for your love support and prayers. I appreciate each of you. 

Leslie

My first dance with the “Red Devil” – Doxorubicin

I have Stage 3 Hormone Receptor Positive – Invasive Ductile Cancer….or something like that.  Cancer in the left breast which started in a duct and has grown outside and into the surrounding tissue, nearing the outer skin.

I have been treated with Faslodex, which is a set of chemotherapy shots to target the Estrogen hormone in my body which feeds the breast cancer.  I had three treatments of Faslodex.  My doctors were concerned that this treatment was not working in the manner they had hoped for.

Today – October 12, 2016 – is my very first IV Chemotherapy treatment.  What am I feeling?

  • A bit scared
  • Heard way too many horror stories of chemotherapy in the past
  • Feeling a bit separate from my own body….not quite out of body but like a different personality is taking over….One that is calm
  • A bit worried about excessive pain, vomiting, and a lot of discomfort

I was instructed, several days ago, to take one of the anti-nausea pills several hours before the chemotherapy treatment.  Take one of my $250 pills at 7:00 a.m. before we leave for my 8:30 appointment with my Oncologist.

Anti-Nausea Meds

Anti-Nausea Meds

On our way out to join the craziness of interstate commuters at rush hour going into Oklahoma City….we were greeted by a beautiful sky with the morning sun reflecting off building clouds.

Morning cloud cover

Morning cloud cover

After seeing my Oncologist’s Physician Assistant, who is amazing by the way, I was ready to begin this journey.  I had to call the Chemo Desk to let them know I would be late for my 9:00 appointment this morning.  I was just down on the second floor for my 8:30…..look everyone is doing their best to get me seen and cared for.

It is my responsibility to alert the next appointment when there are delays.  Most people don’t see it that way.  “Hey, it’s not my problem.  I was early to my appointment.”  Who knows if, or when, someone can call my next appointment….even one floor up.  I can do it myself and know that it has been done.

Okay.  I have to be totally honest here.  When I arrived for my Chemotherapy appointment, weighed in, was asked to choose a place to be seated throughout the treatment, and informed of all the beverage and snack options available to me….I was beginning to feel a bit of TMI going on.  Once the Clinical Nurse Specialist – an AMAZING WOMAN – came to tell me about the various drugs I would be getting this morning and their side effects….She asked me if I understood what she had just told me.  Ya.  Uhm.  Okay.  Actually this is what was going on.

Information Overload

Information Overload

Doxorubicin (doks oh ROO bi sin) is a generic name for Adriamycin.  This stuff is SO TOXIC that 550 mg is my LIFETIME dose!  For the rest of my life I can’t have one more drop of this stuff.  EVER!

The favored name of this drug is “Red Devil” or “Red Death”.  Do you feel comforted by this information?!  I think that is when the train wreck happened.  I did a lot of nodding from this point on while I most likely had a glazed over blank stare.

This drug is preferred to be administered through a Chemo Port (of which I have one).  The nurse who will be giving me the drug needs to make sure they actually SEE blood coming back into the line as they go from one dose to the next.  This is to insure the drug is in the vein and not out in tissue.

Are you ready for this?!  If this drug gets out into the tissue it will EAT IT!  This drug is a “Vesicant” – a chemical that causes extensive tissue damage and blistering if it escapes from the vein.

Doxorubicin - Red Devil

Doxorubicin – Red Devil

Just so I know that they have the "Big Guns" going...I guess

Just so I know that they have the “Big Guns” going…I guess

The most common side effects (30% of patients) of “Red Devil” is pain along the site where the medication was given.  Nausea and vomiting.  Low blood counts.  Both white and red blood cells have to be monitored.

This drug has long term possible side effects as well.  Heart damage, and Leukemia are two of the major possible side effects.  Another one is Tumor Lysis Syndrome where the tumor dies so quickly the kidneys can’t cope with the amount of dead cancer cells pouring through my system and into my kidneys.  This can be the cause of kidney failure.

The first five to eight days after Doxorubicin treatment – I and my bodily fluids are TOXIC WASTE!

  • Flush the toilet twice, with lid closed, after each use.  Wipe toilet seat, lid, under seat, porcelain rim and sides.  After each use.
  • My clothes are to be washed separate from Joe’s clothing and/or other household laundry.
  • Bed clothes laundered twice.  One cycle of regular soap and heat temp.  Second round water only to flush out the toxic night sweats.
  • No kissing Joe – my mouth can have sores and some bleeding.
  • Wash hands constantly, or use hand sanitizer…constantly.  Optimally do both.

Within 10 to 14 days my hair will fall out.  ALL OF MY HAIR.  From the top of my head to my toes.  Yes.  Possibly eyebrows, eyelashes, PRAISE THE LORD MY OLD LADY BEARD WILL BE GONE!, arm pits, pubes, legs, and any other hair that I don’t even know about will be shedding itself.

Tomorrow – October 13, 2016 – Joe and I are going to a hair salon that will donate my  hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths – I have 8 inches of hair to whack off.  Some of it is gray or graying but a large portion of it is brown.  So, don’t be alarmed when you next see me with very short hair!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths provides human hair to wig makers for cancer patients that need wigs.  I had originally intended to donate my  hair (and have done this in the past) to Locks of Love.  This organization is for young girls and women who suffer from permanent hair loss at a young age.  Alopecia Areata is permanent medical hair loss which has devastating effects on young girls.

Why am I giving my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lenghts instead of Locks of Love?  Because I am actually going through this process myself and wish to help someone that is traveling along my path.  Someone that is not comfortable with the physical effects of cancer treatment.  I know that I can ease one person’s fears and concerns and I am up for that.

Cyclophosphamide-(Cytoxan trademarked name) is the second chemo drug in my cocktail.  This drug is delivered via IV drip.  I have to drink 64 ounces of water and/or decaffeinated beverages DAILY, with instructions to “Empty bladder frequently – Don’t hold it”.

30% of patients experience:

  • Low blood count – white and red cells
  • Increased risk for infection, anemia, and/or bleeding
  • Temporary hair loss 10 to 14 days into treatment
  • Nausea and vomiting, usually beginning six to 10 hours after therapy
  • Poor appetite
  • Discoloration of skin or nails.  Dark nail beds.  For some patients, nails will fall off on both hands and feet.
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Bladder infection and bleeding.
  • Rinse mouth after each meal with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 8 ounces of warm water.
  • Use of an electric razor is recommended for any shaving – men or women

My Chemotherapy Nurse would be with me throughout the entire process.  This would take four hours from start to finish, not all of it constant supervision.

She came wheeling a cart of supplies to get this party started.

Cart of supplies

Cart of supplies

Now she is getting serious!!

Getting down to serious work

Getting down to serious work

When I saw my surgeon the day before, I asked him about the Lidocaine ointment I was supposed to put on the Port thing to ease any pain of the needle being inserted.  His response “Not necessary.  Children have a worse time of it and it is essential to be used then.  Adults don’t even notice it.”

Can you guess what my Chemo Nurse had to say about that when I walked in without my port covered in plastic wrap?  The Lidocaine ointment has to be administered 30 minutes prior to puncture.  The Port must be covered with plastic wrap during the 30 minutes time.

Even with her counting to THREE before pushing the needle in….YIKES it was uncomfortable!  Survived It!  YAY.

Port in use

Port in use

The first hour or more was spent having the standard drugs run through.  Saline drip, an anti-nausea drip, some kind of steroid for something else.  All while waiting for my TOXIC SOUP to arrive from the hospital pharmacy.

While I’m waiting and feel good I’m going to keep my hands busy.  I brought a small packet of pre-cut and pre-scored items to make my little 3 x 3 note card gift totes.  Joe took this photo to share with our kids.  Each person that comes to take care of me today will be given one of my “Thank You” totes.

Passing the time

Passing the time

Creating the little totes

Creating the little totes

Joe spent quite a bit of time enjoying the aquarium next to him watching a clown fish and a clam or oyster shell open and close.  Each time he got a bit closer to the glass the shell closed, he had to patiently wait for it to reopen.  Joe’s big question…”Where are they eyes of the clam?”  How did it know he was getting closer?  Love that man of mine! 😀

I love this man of mine!

I love this man of mine!

I asked my Chemo Nurse how long she had been doing this work and why she enjoyed working with cancer patients.  Her answer made me wonder at how life’s perspectives get tipped over one their head.

She has been a Chemo Nurse for 21 of her 25 years in nursing.  Coming to Chemo she found that the patient’s attitudes are so different from the general patient population.  “On a regular floor” she said “if a patient needs pain meds they push the call buttons and call out frequently.”  She continued “When we arrive at their room they demand pain meds immediately!”  Those memories are still quite troublesome to her and I could hear it in her voice and see it in her hands as she gave me the Doxorubicin.  I mean, I had her undivided attention for at least 30 minutes, I just had to be a Nosey Parker.  “The Chemo patients say”, my nurse continued, “When you get a chance I will need a bit of something for the pain.  No hurry.”

Someone in the hospital for a bad appendix, gall bladder, hip or knee replacement, or any other kind of surgical procedure is bound to have a lot of pain.  Is there a difference in attitude between general hospital population and the Chemotherapy population?  There are people in both arenas that are terrified of dying and of the “Big C”.

I’m wondering if the difference is the quantitative care one gets in Chemotherapy over a regular hospital floor.  The Chemotherapy floor is wide open and circling the Nurses Station.  Special reclining chairs with arm rests are everywhere.  IV poles and machines are next to each chair.  The Chemo patients see the bee hive of activity by the nurses as they move about tending to their jobs.  In a regular hospital room you don’t see the nurses until they come around for vital signs or to do a spot check.

The last drug I have is a timed one.  24 hours after my Chemo treatment this little device will inject Neulasta into my system to cause my bone marrow to create more white blood cells to fight this cancer and treatment.

Neulasta - at home in my pj's

Neulasta – at home in my pj’s

My Chemo Nurse said, about 15 minutes after she placed this busy little packet on my stomach, there will be a sound like a rubber band snapping and I will feel a pinch as a “Canella” will be inserted under the skin.  There is a flashing green light counting down the timer to injection.  Which will be at about 4:30 the next afternoon – October 13th.

Joe was getting ready to take a video of the thing shooting into me.  He was so excited to see me jump and yelp.  He wanted to have this documented forever, my startled exclamations and all.  Uhm…..he missed the whole show.  He DID MISS IT!  Sitting right there in front of me, cell phone camera pointed and ready.  I yelped and jumped and startled HIM!  He had not had the video button pushed at all.  ROTFLMAO!  😀

The most common side effects – 30% of patients.

  • Bone pain.
  • Pain in shoulder blades, sternum, long bones
  • Achy and sore feeling.  Kind of like the flu
  • Tenderness at the site of injection

For the remainder of the day I felt pretty great.  Sweaty at times but not bad.  This morning (10/13) I woke feeling energetic and ready for the day.  Joe fixed me breakfast.  Listen people this was his very FIRST attempt at making an omelet and I think he did FABULOUS!

Joe's omelet skills

Joe’s omelet skills

Making of the omelet

Making of the omelet

Okay, it is time for me to go do some things I need to take care of for this week.  While I feel like I am able to do things.  My energy level is depleting hourly now (October 13th) so I better get busy.

Leslie

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