Friday, February 25, 2011

02/25/2011

Today is radiation round #17. That means I only have 10 sessions left after today. Radiation has gone by quickly and pretty painlessly so far (knock on wood). Yesterday I met with my Dr. Henig and she checked my skin. Even though I told her that I did not have any pain, she was concerned with the red patch under my arm. My skin looks like I have been sitting in the sun for hours with no sun block. Dr. Henig provided me with some gel patches that are supposed to pull the heat from the burn and also reduce swelling. After last night’s treatment I used one of the patches and was pleasantly surprised at how soothing it was. I think I’ll continue the patches nightly until I’m finished with treatment!

I am experiencing some fatigue from the treatment, but nothing too severe yet. I think my body is still recovering from chemo, so most nights I spend on the couch watching Dexter and snuggling with Finnegan and Kennedy. The beagle boys are always happy to spend a few hours sleeping on the couch with me. Shane, on the other hand, has not been so lucky and has been working non-stop to finish out this term of classes. Next term will be his last and then he will officially graduate with his MSW. I am not planning on graduating this year, after all. With the upheaval of my life after the diagnosis and my chemo brain I haven’t been able to complete my thesis/project. I will, however, be starting on-campus classes again next term!
Really, I’m excited to get back to living life somewhat normally. I’ll see how normal things can be next month when I start Tamoxifen and probably Lupron shots.

Anyway, my hair has been growing, albeit extremely slowly. They say that a watched pot never boils…I’m pretty sure that my manic tendencies toward watching my hair has caused it not to grow. There are still patches of baldness all around the top, but little “prickles” are sprouting up elsewhere. Hopefully by May I will be able to celebrate my birthday with a new head of hair!

Much love,
Heather

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Note about my Valentine

Since the incarnation of Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday, it has been the charge of the husband to make February 14th the day in which they go out of their way to do wonderful things for their spouse that they wouldn’t do any other day of the year. Many husbands send flowers, purchase decadent chocolates, or write heartfelt cards to show their spouse just how much they mean to them. Dinner is a formality where the couples gaze into each other’s eyes longingly. Valentine’s Day is a challenge to show just how good of a husband you are – something my husband doesn’t need to do. The last six plus months have been a reminder that while many other husbands are bringing home cards and flowers today to prove how much they love their wives, my husband has proved his love and devotion more than I could ever imagine.

Since June of 2010 we fought together to keep our heads up and our hearts confident that we will get through this time in our lives together. When other men could have bowed out, Shane has been by my side through surgeries to remove my breasts, weeks of helping me out of bed and to the bathroom, cooking every meal and cleaning the house, emptying blood-filled drain tubes from my chest, driving me to every chemo appointment and oncologist visit, taking notes, asking questions, and being my sidekick each day during my infusions. He has rushed me to the hospital in the middle of the night, held me close when I felt like I couldn’t take anymore, and pushed me to be strong when I needed an extra push. He has listened to me cry about my fears, divulge my insecurities, and simply fall apart. On this day, many men lament about how beautiful their wives are, but my husband has watched me gain 20+ pounds from chemo, lose all of my hair, and transform from the body of a normal 27 year old to someone who is scarred and misshapen without blinking an eye. If there was ever a question as to whether he truly believed the vows “in sickness and in health”, he has proven again and again that he has taken this marriage to heart. I know that much of my strength comes from him.

Today, and every other day of the year, I’m so happy and blessed to know that I’ve found my soul mate. In the midst of some of my darkest times, he has always been there physically and emotionally to support me in just the way I need it. In the happiest times, he is the one who I share them with. He knows my heart better than anyone else in the world because he is the one who holds it.

I love you Shane!! -Heather

Sunday, February 6, 2011

02/06/2011

Today, even though its Super Bowl Sunday, I'm spending the day organizing the house and getting it ready to be cleaned (YES - TO BE CLEANED!!) Thanks to some of the most amazing friends and co-workers in the world, my house is going to be cleaned until I can pull myself together from this cancer treatment! These angels went out and found me a housekeeper, called her references, and purchased me a gift card for housekeeping! I'm hoping to meet with her this week to give her a tour of the house and show her where everything is. This is going to be such a huge help for Shane and I since its been practically impossible to keep up with house work since my diagnosis. While I'm able to work full time, by the time I get home at night I'm exhausted. Shane is still working full time, doing his internship, and going to school so his days are extremely full and his weekends are spent catching up and then working on Sundays. This is going to be such an unreal blessing to us at a time when we need it SO badly! I can't say thank you enough!!

Just an update on radiation: I called OHSU Friday to discuss the possibility of getting the full dose of radiation and to get a second opinion from Dr. Marquez. Sierra (the most amazing Breast Nurse Coordinator in the world) said that she would contact my breast surgeon and they would discuss the case and let me know by Monday if a dose reduction is the smartest thing for me. Once again, I am so grateful to have the amazing team at OHSU on my side!

So far, the radiation hasn't caused any side effects. I am slathering the area twice daily with Calendula gel and Aloe Vera from the natural food store here in Salem. It seems to be doing the trick! Of course, I'm watching out for signs of lymphedema and any burning that might be happening. I'm expecting fatigue about half way through the process. So far, so good.

The nurses at radiation are wonderful and have been super helpful in making me feel comfortable under the huge radiation machine. It isn't the most comforting process, but it doesn't take long and with the exception of Thursdays I'm out of the hospital within 15 minutes.

On another note, I was asked by a Professor at WOU to be the "center of attention" at an upcoming Women's Basketball game. They are going to honor me, as a breast cancer survivor, at the annual "Pink Out" to raise breast cancer awareness. I feel a little funny about the whole thing because I don't technically think of myself as a survivor yet, but it does help raise awareness. I think its particularly important on a college campus where I'm just a little bit older than many of the women who will be attending the basketball game. It really brings to light the need for young women to do self exams and get checked! It CAN happen to young women!!!
Anyway, the most exciting part of this whole process is that my parents are going to come to the game to support me (and ensure that I don't pass out when I have to walk out in front of everyone and have my "story" read). The game starts at 5:30 on February 17th at Western Oregon University if you want to attend.

As always, thank you so much for all the love and support!
Heather & Shane

Thursday, February 3, 2011

02/03/2011

Hey everyone! Just wanted to update you on the recent happenings in Cancerland. Last week would have normally been chemo, but instead I just had the Herceptin treatment which i'll continue for 11 more cycles. While there I mentioned a nodule above my left breast that I had noticed in the last couple of weeks. My oncologist and surgeon both looked at the lump and then scheduled me for an ultrasound up on the hill at OHSU. Despite my worst fears coming up again, the ultrasound didn't find anything and the consensus was that the beebee-sized lump is just a mass of tissue from surgery. We are so relieved to know that it isn't a reoccurance!

Radiation started yesterday. I just finished with my second treatment about two hours ago. Things are going well so far. I have been putting Calendula cream and aloe vera on the radiated area twice a day. I'm not seeing any redness or irritation yet. Shane took me to Target last night to get some soft cotton tee shirts and some sweat pants to wear around the house after treatments. My appointments are in the afternoon, so I stop at the hospital on my way home from work around 4:30 each day to get treatment. The treatments only take about 10 minutes and I don't see or feel anything while getting "radiated".

I found out today from my Radiologist that i'm getting a "lighter" radiation for only 28 treatments because technically my stats don't qualify me for radiation and because she wants to ensure that the long term effects to my skin and reconstruction aren't as bad as they could be. I'm a little upset about this, firstly because I wasn't told that I would not be receiving the full strength treatment, but also because I think its important to hit this cancer with everything I can now. I didn't say anything to the radiation oncologist today when she told me about the treatment adjustment, but i'm probably going to call her tomorrow to talk about my options. At least having the conversation will help me sleep better at night!

We'll keep you updated as radiation continues!

All our love,
Shane & Heather