Friday, August 20, 2010


Heather is recovering from surgery very well and all of the physicians appear to be impressed with her healing time and positive attitude. During every visit at OHSU she receives lots of attention from support staff, nurses, and researchers on the prowl for the their next subject. I believe Heather's sweet charming nature draws everyone in and given her diagnosis and age she is a statistical anomaly, which researchers both love and hate. Two of her pain pump tubes were removed last week, two drain tubes were removed yesterday, and two large lymph system drain tubes remain with hopes they will be removed in a week. Heather's mom was down last week and my mom arrived a couple of days ago, which has been a tremendous help and having mom around really helps cut the stress. We have have enjoyed some great food friends have been delivering to us, which has been a huge help. So let's get to "just the facts mam". We met with Heather's surgeon, plastic surgeon, and medical oncologist yesterday. Plastic surgery assesses Heather's progress is excellent and the next step will be continuing to monitor and gradually increasing fluid in her tissue expander's with the eventual goal to replace them with silicone. Heather's surgeon brings us better news than we were expecting and the size of the tumor was 4.2 cm (greatest dimension). This is still considered a large tumor by their standards, but we were told it was around 5 cm at Salem Hospital. Even better news is the cancer only metastasized to 3 (out of 22 removed) axillary lymph nodes near the tumor. Follow up with the surgeon is in 3 months. Last we met with the medical oncologist, who was so kind to actually show us some recent studies demonstrating the most recent data, which I appreciate. Heather was informed she will have to undergo radiation therapy after chemotherapy, due to her age, metastasis to the lymph nodes, and size of tumor. This was not the news we were expecting, however, Heather is willing to undergo any treatment which will increase the likelihood of the cancer not reoccurring. Last, Heather was given two options for chemotherapy, which will require further investigation by us to determine which is the best option. Each has it's own set of benefit's, however, one of the options is more treatment aggressive and has a 10% chance causing congestive heart failure. We certainly have our home work to do, however, Heather is leaning towards the safer first option. She is scheduled for an EKG, chemo port will be surgically inserted, and chemotherapy begins mid-September. We are feeling much better today than a few days ago, as the uncertainty of the lymph node situation was very unsettling. My supervisor warned me this would be a roller coaster and I think we can now relate and fully understand this metaphor. We were looking up with uncertainty a few days ago and are now looking down knowing what to expect and where the twists and turns reside. Keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recovery Begins and On to the Next Chapter

We have been unable to post today, due to Blackberry technical difficulties. Heather had a long day yesterday and yet again proved how resilient she is: She arrived at OHSU at 6a, went into surgery at 8:30a, surgery concluded at 1:15p, and she was not transferred to a hospital room until 8:30p. She endured 7-8 hours in the day surgery room in the most noisy chaotic environment imaginable. Heather was discharged this evening after a long day of waiting for a physician to approve it. She is experiencing significant pain, which is well controlled most of the time with medicine. We are both relieved this important milestone has passed and Heather is able to take the time needed to heal. We(Heather and I) joke she looks like an Octopus because she has multiple drain tubes and other tubes protruding just below her arms. I have been tasked as the "Bulb Man" by Heather and her physician. Which means I get to drain and track any extracted fluids every few hours. There was a "spec" of cancer discovered in one of her sentinel lymph nodes(other two were negative), so the surgeon had to perform an axillary lymph node dissection (10-15 other nodes were removed for analysis). This was some what expected by Heather and I, given the type and size of the tumor in the breast. We won't know if any other lymph nodes were affected until next week and it is uncertain how this might change the treatment plan. The mastectomy and reconstruction looks absolutely fantastic and this serves as a constant reminder of how lucky we are to have such a great team at OHSU. Heather is currently sleeping soundly and we have been told progress should be seen each day in regards to pain and mobility. Tomorrow will consist of PT exercises, rest, and watching movies. Of course, I will be fulfilling my "Bulb Man" tasks and preparing the house for families arrival in a couple of days. Heather's family will be arriving this Friday and Saturday and my mom will be here sometime next week. We wanted to thank our friends and family again for the flowers, kind words, cards, gift cards, phone calls, and text messages. Also wanted to thank everyone who supported us at OHSU; it was so incredibly helpful that words can not describe. I personally underestimated how difficult it would be emotionally and the support helped me maintain my sense of humor, keep my spirits high, and trust OHSU's care. We are both feeling very hopeful about what the future holds and will know more about what's next for treatment towards the end of next week. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Surgery is Complete

Heather's total surgery is complete and according to the surgeons everything went as planned. I have talked with both Heather's plastic surgeon and primary surgeon, who are both pleased with the results. I have not yet had a chance to see her yet, as she is in the recovery room awaiting to be assigned a room. Hopefully, the room will be a private room so I can remain with her through out the night. It is still unclear on whether she will have to stay one or two nights. Thanks to everyone for the support and kind words! Our friend Alice and Heather's aunt, Carolyn, have been waiting all day, which has made the wait much more enjoyable and helps the time go by. The old man sitting across the room has provided some great entertainment and I won't repeat the absolutely hilarious things he has been saying. OHSU day surgery waiting room is an interesting place to people watch to say the least. Keep you posted.

Over Half Way Over

We just spoke with Heather's surgeon and Heather is over the half way mark. The masectomy is finished, however, the plastic surgeon has to finish her portion. So far, the surgery is succesful and everything is going as planned. Will keep you posted.

Today's Events

Heather just went in for surgery and was in good spirits, however, nervous as expected. Her surgery is scheduled from 8-noon. Alice is here with me providing support and waiting, which is nice to have the company. The surgeon will be out to talk with us at around 11a to discuss progress. Will keep you posted.


Monday, August 9, 2010

08/09/2010 Update

Today's pre-op is finally over. The day consisted of meetings with both surgeons, a visit with the anesthesiologist, bloodwork, and finally an injection of radioactive material into my breast for tomorrow's sentinal node biopsy.

Tomorrow's Surgery is scheduled for 7am. We are supposed to be at OHSU by 6am. The boys are headed to "Aunt Alice's house" for a couple days of playing with their cousins. Shane will be staying at the hospital tomorrow night as Christine, our care nurse, requested a private room with a cot so he can be there with me when I get done with surgery and for the evening.

Shane will be updating the web site from OHSU with news on surgery and recovery. I look forward to getting done and on the road to recovery. Please keep your fingers crossed and prayers coming that the sentinal node biopsy is negative! :-) Thank you everyone for your amazing support and love during this time!

Much love,

Heather & Shane


We are headed to a pre-op appointment today to meet with the anesthesiologist, and have our final meetings with the surgeon and the plastic surgeon. We are extremely nervous, but also happy to get the process of treatment finally started.

At this point, we are unsure how long we will be staying at OHSU or even what the surgery time is tomorrow, but we will let everyone know how things are going as we know.

All our love,

Shane and Heather