15 March 2018

Testing The Waters

I've been absent for four years; I kept getting frustrated with not able to upload photos. During this time away from blogging, I've managed to stay quite busy. Actually overly busy.

Today is merely me getting my toes wet again. I'm going to begin with an attempt at posting a photo. If all works well, I may just start blogging once again.

Ta Dah!
I've been leading an afterschool class on weather this month and clouds have always been a favorite photo subject of mine so what better than to kick off my return than with a cool cloud photo!

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.

16 January 2014

Mammograms Half Price!

Okay, here it is in a nutshell: I'll be having a mastectomy soon. I can't next week because we have company coming; the following week I'm volunteering and decorating for a dinner/dance evening, I have a budget meeting, a finance meeting, a strategic goals meeting, a library meeting, a library event, then I am teaching an art class and then taking a quilting class, then a quilting retreat. Oh my, this is going to be tough to schedule surgery in between all my volunteering and fun time. Hmmmm.
Oh well, I'm sure I'll squeeze it in there some how.
Speaking of squeezing, I must say I am not a big fan of mammograms but this cancer was caught so early that I don't have to worry. I have time to meet my volunteer obligations, then have surgery. All because I did drag my butt down and had my mammogram! So, ladies, get off yours and get a check-up!
I forgot to ask the surgeon if this means my mammograms will be half price from now on! Ha! They certainly should be.

13 January 2014

A New Journey

I don't know if it is my age or if it is the age we live in, but cancer seems to hit so many families in one form or another.

It is interesting because when I fill out all those reams of medical forms asking everything except for me to sign over my first born child, I have never had to check the box that I come from "cancerous" stock. So it isn't in the genes...just the environment.

A little history: Jack's grandfather died from throat cancer. He smoked cigars like no one I ever knew. So that was no surprise. And he lived to be in his 80's. He would go for the fatty pieces of meat when we dined together. So he lived a good life. But his environment was filled with cigar smoke.

Jack's father died from cancer in his sinuses. He had been a custodian at a high school for over 30 years; scrubbing asbestos tiles, fixing lights in asbestos ceilings, etc. His cancer was environmental.

Our son-in-law got Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma...not once, but twice. He works in the agricultural business and is exposed to pesticides, etc. His cancer is environmental.

Then our eldest daughter got Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She's a school teacher and worked in a portable unit for years; complaining about the horrible smell coming from the heating unit.. to no avail. Who knows? She may have contacted something that gave her cancer. Or she lived her entire youth under Rocketdyne where they blasted off rockets right over our heads. We were silly enough to go outside each time one launched and watched it go. How did we know it may be building up crap that would turn to cancer later on?

From the water we drink, to the air we breathe, to the chemicals in our foods...or our genetic makeup.. we just aren't living in a natural environment any longer.

Last year, Jack was diagnosed with prostate cancer. That was a crazy road to travel because there are so many different approaches to "treatment" and all have scary side effects. I learned a lot about the prostate. So much can go wrong as it sits in a precarious place in the body. I'll spare the details but it is all connected to the urinary tract, the rectum, and of course is connected to sexual issues.
We traveled up and down the interstate corridors to university cities for the best of the best. Jack ended up choosing brachytherapy which is the insertion of radioactive pellets, mapped and strung together to target his cancer cells. No one else could use those seeds. They told us if we missed the appointment, we would be charged $16,000...oh yeah, he stayed close to home so he wouldn't breathe any germs and get sick before the operation.
We are still dealing with side effects from that, but he is doing well as far as we know.

Currently, it is my turn. I have breast cancer. It is the "good" kind and I'm not going to die from it. I just need to deal with it. Did Rocketdyne do this to me? Who knows? No one else in my family has it.

But then, does it really matter? I am borrowing the term from my daughter and I am "cancering" right now. We just use it as a verb in our family. It is an action verb and it will run out of steam soon.

I have a second opinion scheduled next week with a surgeon. I'll let you know how that all goes. But know that I am not worried. I am not scared. I am challenged to learn about this cancer that has invaded my body and hopefully, I can prevent it from bothering me in the future!

So much to learn....

21 December 2013

Arlo Guthrie and Locks of Love

Well, I'll be a blue-nosed gopher if my blog isn't working again!

So you are asking yourself, "what's with that title?"

I decided a couple years ago I wanted my hair to be like Arlo Guthrie's hair. And sure enough, I made it and then some. Since it was growing so nicely, I thought I might donate my locks to "Locks of Love" which makes wigs for children with cancer. Of course, my gray hair can't be used on a child so they sell my donated hair and use the funds towards a child's wig. Cool or what?!

I must say, I loved my long hair but I had decided to donate it so it was a matter of sticking to my word. Danette and family visited and I handed her the scissors and said, "Chop away!"

And she did....
The grandkids laughed because it was almost black in the center of the braid. That must mean I'm not totally old!
One month later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So alas, no good deed goes unpunished!
More on that later....but for now, I'm feeling fine, just a little bit cold around the neck when I go outside in the sub-freezing weather. Brrrrr.... stupid time to have my hair cut off!

02 March 2013

Under Construction

I've decided to allow my blog to rest for awhile. Besides, I have used up my maximum of storage for photos. I'm working on deleting old posts....once I clean everything up, I might come back to blogging.

Being retired has changed my rhythm in life. We have time to drop what we are doing and go north to my family, south to see the girls or further south to Jack's family. Volunteering has taken over my life too. I am finding where I fit best in the community. It has been a fun and interesting process.

Some things I've "released" and it feels good.

Mom is in a transition point in her life and I want to be available for her if she should ever give me the word!

I'm headed out to a quilting retreat. I haven't quilted since last fall. Just so many things to do!

I check in on blogs that I follow so I am up to date with all of you out in Blogland. I'll be back. I'm just going to continue to stay under the radar for awhile longer.

Take care and be kind to one another.