28 March 2014

Helpful Mastectomy Products

It was amazing to find help in the little things after surgery.

This camisole is the best investment I could have made. I put it on in the hospital and am still wearing it 16 days later. Fortunately for me, the weather has been nice so I've been able to hang it out to dry and put it right back on; changing into it while I was at the clothesline!
(I tried to insert a photo here but Blogger won't let me.)

Anyway, this camisole is so, so soft and comfy. It has pockets to hold the drains while patients are on the mend. Then it has pockets for temporary breast forms. Yeah, I tried mine and it was so light weight it "floated" up and didn't anchor. I'll wait for the "real" silicone one next month. That one will not be able to be worn with my camisole.

The next little helpful item was a small heart pillow. I tucked it under my arm to keep weight away from where the drain was inserted and to keep weight off of the area where my lymph nodes were removed. I received two and use one while I'm sleeping at night and one for whenever I need it. For awhile, I kept it under my arm while I walked. Volunteers make them and donate them to the breast center.

I do wish I could upload photos because this next item was extremely helpful. It was made of cotton fabric and it was a strip that hung around my neck and at each end it had pockets. This was to wear in the shower to hold my drain. Very cool. The only glitch was when I got out of the shower, I had this wet cloth around my neck. I made myself a second one and kept it dry. I'd just take my drain and tuck it into the dry one. Then I'd do whatever I needed to do to get ready for the day and didn't have to worry about getting tangled in my drain tube. Again, a woman makes them and donates them.

When I mentioned I'd like to sew some items for them, I received the very last seatbelt adapter. It is large and has foam inside of it to provide a barrier from the seatbelt. I was asked if I would mind making some of them, if I could as the woman who made them has moved away.

Needless to say, I have a group of ladies lined up and ready to sew a bunch of things which we will donate to the Breast Cancer Center.

If you or someone you know sews items for breast cancer patients, tell them thank you from me!

Just the little things in life that can make such a big difference in someone else's life.

Thanks for "listening"!

24 March 2014

This Breast Cancer Thing ...

Okay, it's about time I wrote about my journey through breast cancer. Actually, I'm not quite through it, but very close.

June 2013 Before my diagnosis: Jack had to have surgery on his testicle and since his PSA count had been rising every six months, he opted to have a prostate biopsy as long as he was knocked out. Surgery went fine but it was confirmed he had prostate cancer.

We knew it is a slow growing cancer and we had time to do research. He is the type of person who cannot do anything without it being done to perfection. He just about glued his butt to the office chair in front of the computer as he researched his options. Day after day, page after page of information. Books came in the mail, we read all of them.

The biggest problem with the prostate is that EVERYTHING runs right by it or very close by and so many things can go wrong. Then there is the fact that the treatments offered couldn't be more opposite! He could have open surgery. He could have robotic surgery. He could do surgery with external beam radiation. He could do radiation pellets inserted in his prostate. So we read comments on the forums and heard horror stories and successes on every procedure.

We like his urologist so we started in his office. Two hours of answering questions and explaining his technique of open surgery. We heard his "side" of the issue. Next we drove to Palo Alto to Stanford University Medical Center's Cancer Institute (not the official name). The specialist there told us all about robotics surgery. The surgeon operates these robots that go into the prostate with tiny scissors and clip the cancer away. That very day, an article appeared in the San Francisco newspaper talking about all the lawsuits against the robotics due to unclean scissors! We mentioned the article and it was pretty much "waved" away.

Next, we headed North to Seattle, the brachytherapy center of the prostate cures. We learned about the radioactive pellets that are made just for the patient after mapping the prostate cancer. This mesh or whatever is placed so that the pellets are linked and won't "escape" and they work next to the cancer cells.

We had days of listing pros and cons and finally, Jack decided his biggest fear was that he would be incontinent. The brachytherapy was the best procedure for that not happening.
September 2013 - His surgery was done.

Report: he is doing great. The radiation has a 60 day half-life so every 60 days, it gets weaker and weaker. I can honestly say he did not glow green in the dark like I was SURE he would. He gets tired easier than he used to, but he is able to adapt and shorten his work days and he is learning to relax.

November 2013: Once I knew he was going to be okay, I could listen to my doctor's voice nagging at me, "Sandee, did you get your mammogram?" I finally dragged myself in and just got it done. I had to go back in as they saw something they needed a magnification of. I'm figuring, "no big deal, I most likely wiggled the first time." They told me right away that they saw something and wanted to get a biopsy. I figured, "okay, it's just nothing."

December 2013: I was calm all the time, even though there was "breast cancer pink" all around the office, I never once thought I had cancer. Jack went with me for my biopsy and I was told it was going to take awhile so I told him to just go run some of our errands. (Still no big deal.) Then the results came back and I had DCIS Breast Cancer. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ - meaning the cancer is contained in the milk ducts. I'm still thinking, "Okay, they can just cut the spot out since it is contained."

Onto a surgeon..... (still calm.)
This surgeon doesn't like to do mastectomies unless necessary. The pathology report showed my DCIS had markers showing it had been there for quite awhile and it was in multiple places, not close to one another. Her "language" definitely told Jack and me that she thought mastectomy would be best. She suggested I get a second opinion.

I did. Same diagnosis... blah ... blah ... blah...(still calm.)

At this point, it meant I had to glue my butt to the seat of the office chair in front of our computer. (Arrrgh!!) But I did it. Jack researched and so did our son-in-law.

Back to the first surgeon to set up the date.
Okay....there are important things in life.....first the doc had to go on vacation then I had some volunteer obligations (I refuse to be a "flake" just because I have cancer!) and then I had to go on a quilting retreat.

FYI - You cannot donate blood once you have cancer! I didn't even think about it and went in to donate blood and said, "Yes, I'm healthy, except I was just diagnosed with cancer."

I talked to my friends who had had breast cancer, etc. I read Forums and stories. I watched YouTube videos. I even checked out the mastectomy tattoos on Pinterest. WOW!!!! Cool! I even found a blog where a Survivor makes her own breast forms. I decided I would make my own too. I whipped one up in cute frog fabric. If it works, I'll make some in paisley and bright colors just to shock the world!!

March 2014: After all the social obligations were met, I had surgery....just 12 days ago. Danette came up for 5 days and was a tremendous help to Jack and me. I'm doing great. I was on pain meds two days and then Ibuprophen for two days. I'm walking every day, each walk gets longer and longer. I have a drain in that has to be "milked" twice a day and the liquid measured. I am at the level where I get to have the drain removed tomorrow. That will be so nice. Then it will just be the healing process.

I get tired and I lay down and nap. All of my Survivor Sisters told me to "mind what the doctor says" so I am doing just that. I am working on art projects and some small sewing projects. It is so nice to not have to worry about taking care of little ones, missing work or running any committees right now. Just focus on healing.

The final pathology report was that there was one more site found and that four lymph nodes were removed. It would have been just two but they were clumped too closely together. So my cancer stayed at Stage 0 as it was all contained in the ducts. None got to the lymph nodes or out of the breast. I am twice as likely to get cancer in my other breast as I was before this... stands to reason.
I am lucky, I had the "good" kind of cancer.

I have had tremendous support from family and friends. Jack has been a gem. A lot of love circling around me and it does feel good.