Monday, May 30, 2011

March 10th, 2010 - What is a survivor

March 10th 2010 marked my 1 year since my diagnosis of Breast Cancer.  Sometimes it feels like this last year has been so long yet most times it's hard to believe how much we have accomplished in this last year.  They say you are a survivor from the day you are diagnosed with cancer.  I have to admit tho I am still confused by this concept.   For me, since I am still in chemo until August, I have a hard time saying I am a survivor.  I am ok with saying I have been battling breast cancer for 1 year but have I really survived if I am still in treatment?  What about when my chemo is complete.  There is no 1 guarantee test that says OK you are 100% cancer free.  For most people you wait it out.  You go through life hoping that any pain or sickness isn't serious and you celebrate the milestones at 2 years, 5 years, 10 years...   Will only after 5 years and no cancer has returned then will I be a survivor?  Can you only survive an event that has a specific beginning and end date or time?  Such as a war or a tornado?
But what about those who know there is no cure for their cancer.  They will be in and out of treatments for the rest of their hopefully long lives.  Are they not cancer survivors?  Let's go to the expert..  Mr. Webster.
1.  To remain alive or in existence.
~This definition sounds so depressing to me.  To remain alive? We all remain alive and are in existence.  I would hope I am living more than to just exist.

 2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere:
~ to persevere -  hang in there  - while this is better than the first definition it still does not reflect the importance of a cancer survivor. 

How do you define a survivor?  

To me it is a combination of both.   I would hope when one looks at me as a survivor, either today, in August or in 5 years from now they not only see that I persevered through my 18 months of cancer treatments but that I lived!  I enjoy life.  I participate in life.  I laugh with my family.  I make memories with my friends.  I kiss my husband.  I get on the floor and get silly with my daughter.   It is in these moments that I am a survivor.  These moments where I feel alive!  And I love the feeling!

Words from a popular Nicki Minaj song...  

I fly with the stars in the skies
I am no longer trying to survive
I believe that life is a prize
But to live doesn't mean you're alive


I wish that I could have this moment 4 life, 4 life, 4 life
Cause In this moment, i just feel so alive, alive, alive

1 year ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. While this year had its struggles, we made it! And we have Emelia in our life! I celebrate being a 1 year breast cancer survivor with all of you and because of all of you! Thank you for all your love and support! xoxoxo

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Burn Baby Burn

Since I haven't written in a while, I'll write a few post from the last couple of months.    In February I went to Framingham for radiation.   It was every morning around 7am for 33 days.  There was no way I was driving to Boston ever day for 33 days in a row.. especially in the snow and commuting  hours.   Dana-Farber recommended Framingham Cancer center for radiation.   7 minutes from my house!   The first day I was so nervous - I knew it wouldn't physically hurt but I also knew something was beaming down right at my heart.   I laid on this table with my arms in some awkward position above my head  and my head turned to the side. The head position was the most uncomfortable part physically - especially when the first week or two it took about 30 minutes.  
I cried.  But not from the pain.   I have come to realize anytime I do something for the first time - cancer related - I will probably cry.   To me it was another reminder that I have breast cancer and that  it is serious.    I have gotten so used to chemo - every 3 weeks stop in to Boston, see my nurse, get hooked up, play on laptop, leave.  Felt almost like just a typical doctors visit..  almost forgetting that I am getting some strong drug injected into my body to kill my cells.  I think it's a good thing to get comfortable and forget the details for this anyways!   So being my first day at radiation I was reminded that yes you have cancer and you are still being treated.  And I cried.  But days went by and the action became repetitive and took less time and the tears were replaced with quick small talk with the nurse and off to work!  
My skin handled radiation pretty well I think.  I would put lotion on every night..  a lot of lotion.. so much that my shirt would stick to my chest wall.    And soon you could see my tan!  a Big square tan area where my breast used to be.    (it's still slightly tan today)  Towards the end of treatments my skin did begin to peal - just like any bad sunburn - and the raw skin was exposed.  I had to stop treatment for a couple days to let it heal so that it wouldn't blister or form puss.  Again lots more lotion..  now the thick aquaphor.    After a few days off I resumed treatment and before you know it 33 treatments were over!   Another cancer step complete!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1 Boob, 2 Bras!

Ok I wanted to share a few things about having 1 breast.. mostly for other women.  
First and foremost...  what I did learn is my boob does NOT define me.   I was so nervous before surgery that I would be a different person without the boob.. but even the next day I was the same.    I was still a mom, still a wife, sister, daughter, friend..  still funny and still a woman. 
Larry is still an amazing husband..  still loves me, still is attracted to me..    As he would say... Your other boob still is great!  
The chest wall.  With the breast removed my chest wall is so flat.. feels like it's to the bone/ribs.  Or like a teenage boy! No muscle, no fat, just skin on bone.  (again if only my abs/thighs could be more like this!)  Sometimes I think I can feel cold drinks pass through my esophagus now, or my heart beating!

Another problem with the left boob gone..  there is now a direct view to my stomach!  Before the breast bump could somewhat hide the stomach bump..  Not now.  I will need to work on that!  
The foam boob..  I should take a picture soon.  Basically I was given a sports bra thing that holds a foam boob. It was stiff, shaped like a big triangle and not at all real looking or feeling.  It basically was worn to fill in space under a shirt..  Besides being so uncomfortable the foam boob was so stiff. The sports bra thing did not have any support.. so my fake foam boob was up higher than my real boob.  If I just placed the foam boob into a regular wired bra it would shift.. and eventually be coming out of my shirt at my neck!     For a couple of days I tried so hard to even out the breasts..  
One day my best option was.. 2 bras!   Yep I would wear the sports bra to hold the foam boob in place.. and than place a regular to lift my right real boob.  They were even.. but 2 bras are not comfortable! 

Finally I received my real fake boob!  The chicken cutlet.. it feels nice, has great shape and fits in my regular bra once a pocket is sewn.   I was able to buy it at Nordstroms!   Who knew they sold boobs!  And they will fix any bras purchased there.    I will take some pictures soon!  But at least for now..  I have 1 great boob, 1 great fake boob, and some nice bras!

Surgery day - Dec 14th

Hi everyone!  I know it has been a while since I last posted.  Again just enjoying my nights with Emelia and Larry!  But here are some updates on whats been going on.. and how I have been feeling!

For the weeks and days leading to my Mastectomy in December I was a mess.  Mostly scared and sadden to lose a part of me.  Wondering how I would change.. if I could still be me.   As with most struggles... the weeks before and the anticipation are always worse than the actual event and the days after.    A few things helped me get threw it.  A couple of weeks before the surgery I had a Bye Bye Boobie party!  Lots of friends, drinks, food and fun!  Great time and really helped me relax before the big day.   

The morning of the surgery Larry did his share to make me laugh.  We had to be at MGH early.. 6:30 am.  Larry was tired.. didn't eat and maybe just a little nervous/concerned.  We were in the pre-surgery room, I was laying on a bed, getting prepped..  He stood and watched the nurse put my IV in my hand.   Probably not a good idea!  All of a sudden.. he was pale.. shaky.. and 1, 2 , 3..  passing out .. heading toward the floor!   The nurses called for help.. and had him in a chair.. started taking his blood pressure.. but it was so low.. no pulse..  and then they looked at me and said.. Rebecca can you get up and move.. we need to give Larry your bed!   haha- of course.. always stealing my moment!   He was hooked up to oxygen and given some food-   Waving to me laughing as I was eventually moved to a new stretcher and into surgery!  It did help make me laugh. 

The surgery was fine..  I was asleep!   Since I did not do reconstruction that day and my lymph nodes were removed previously, it wasn't as bad as I expected.  I was even able to go home that afternoon!  Of course I got sick.. I always do. But by later that night I was fine.

The hardest part of the next few days was not being able to lift Emelia.  I could physically.. but I wasn't supposed to because I had a drain in and they didn't want fluid to build up in my chest wall.  Recovery wasn't too bad.   The drain was in for 3 weeks.  Since it was over Christmas, the holiday and company helped distract me.   

Babies Babies Babies!

I promised everyone a post about babies.. and here it is!   Emelia is the best!  And Ava is a very close second!  (Also Larry, Sarah, my parents, friends...)   But Back to babies!   Every day is just filled with joy, hearing new sounds from Emmy's voice, watching her learn and figure things out.. or just try to attempt to put everything in her mouth!  And then those little touches and looks..  melts my heart! 

In the last few months we have done a lot!  Mostly we try to spend time with Sarah, Jesse and Ava.  We have had 2 sleepovers there which were a blast.. they are slowly starting to recognize each other!   We have also had a few fun play dates!  And a great time at a birthday party at the gym!  She loved the balance beam! We take her to the mall, to dinners, and to friends houses too!  Larry's parents were able to visit in December for Christmas and we all really enjoyed their company and her spending time with them!   My mom lovingly watches Emelia 4 days a week!  It's great for both of them!

Emmy and Ava

Emelia loves to make raspberries and can now sit up on her own.  A few times she goes for a toy and face plants into the mat.   One day she rolled over 3 times for me..  but since then its been a struggle!   Here are a couple pictures of her. Today she weighs 14lbs 2 oz..  4percentile! 

Larry has been the best dad ever!  Always playing with her and teaching her new things.   And he makes all her food!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The day has come... Dec 14th, 2010

Dear Left boob

The time has come. We grew up together for 35 years, bosom buddies, and shared many great times together.. .especially our 20s! And then this year you turned crazy on me and tried to kill me. So today you will be cut off from my life forever. You should have known better than to mess with my family and life! Don't worry, I am better off without you and you can be replaced! xoxo

Love, Right boob

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wow! It's really been that long??

Hi Everyone!  I can't believe I haven't written since August??   What have I been doing??   Well I have to say I have been enjoying my time with Emelia!  

But lets start with the cancer stuff.   Today I am on my 10th dose of Taxol/Herceptin combo.  2 more to go of taxol.   The worse part is how long it takes and that I miss Emelia!  The best part is my mom takes me and we have fun talking.  She is the best!  Never complains and I know how boring it is to just sit there.  Thanks mom!   Second.. I usually take a little nap while there.   The meds make me sleepy!  But it's a good time to rest.   We haven't brought Emelia yet because it's too long of a day. But we will in November when it's only 1.5 hours instead of 4.    As for side effects...  I am handling the chemo pretty well.  I have some tingling in my feet , usually at night when I'm in bed is when i notice it.  But it doesn't bother me too much.  My hair just recently started to fall out again.. little at a time.   It was growing for a while!    2 weeks ago or so  i had the worse side effect!   My taste buds changed and a great red wine tasted horrible!!  But i have found some cheaper ones that taste good.   So i'm ok!     

The plan for the next few months...   2 more doses of taxol/herceptin.  And then i switch to every 3 weeks of herceptin only.  That will go until August 2011.   Long way away..    In december I will have the mastectomy.  Which i have accepted but still not ready for.  I just hate that I have to lose my breast.  I think it's harder to accept because I dont feel sick or feel like i have this deadly disease.   But I do.  So I will. 

I think I will have a Bye Bye Boobie party in early december to help deal with the surgery!  A lot of women do a party before the mastectomy and since I love to throw parties.. why not!  You know I can make it a fun time..  Boobs is a great theme!

Ok next post will be about Babies!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Adjusting to our new life

Emelia is home and we are loving every minute of it..  even the 2am minutes!   Wednesday was a big day!  We got to the NICU around 11am and I was still in shock, excited and emotional but kept it in as much as I could! We quickly went through last minute notes, dressed her in her new going home dress, took some pictures and gave lots of hugs!   We are so so grateful for the NICU and the nurses at the Brigham.  Marcy and her other nurses just loved her and kept her happy and healthy and we couldn't thank them enough!   We will miss them but will visit!!    The ride home wasn't too bad, Larry drove the best he ever has for me, slow and cautious, and I sat in the back watching her.  She didn't move, just slept the entire ride home.   Once home, a quick diaper change and feeding and then time to sleep again.   She adjusted very well.    That evening we had a little welcome home Emelia dinner party with the grandparents, balloons, flowers, cake and champagne!!  (first glass in 10 months!! )  Emelia even woke up for everyone with eyes wide open and all "smiles"  -could be gas :)    
     One of the best moments was a little later.. She had spit milk up thru her nose and was crying and I wanted Larry to help me clean her out but he was outside.. maybe too much was going on for her.    So I took her upstairs and walked around, holding her and talking to her, showing Emelia her new bedrooms.  And she stopped crying, and just stared at me, peaceful.  This was it, it is real, she is here.  I was a mom, her mom, and she knew it and she was comforted.  And together we just stared at each other knowing life would be great together!   I am so in love with her! 
    The first night was interesting.  It's so quiet at home compared to the NICU and boy does she make some noises when she sleeps!  Grunts and squirms...  I laid in bed and listened to her all night and every 5 minutes or so got up, looked in at her sleeping in her cradle, made sure she didn't spit up, was still breathing and then laid down again.  Repeat.  
At 1 am I took her downstairs so Larry could sleep and fed her.   This is my favorite time with her.  Just Emelia and me.  On my couch, no one around.  Feeding her as she looks up at me with those big eyes, and then holding her on my chest until she falls back to sleep.  
Thursday was a great day.  She met Grandpa Byrne who was in awe of her!   And she met her doctor who said she was doing great.  Now 4lbs 13 ounces!!   She also answered some questions and made us comfortable with the big change!   Then the metrowest news paper came and did a follow up article of us and Emelia being home (see link below).  He tried to get pics of her eyes open but she was just too sleepy!  And then later we took her in the stroller for a walk up and down the street!  She slept through it all but I know she enjoyed it!  
Friday was just Emelia and I most of the day, feeding and sleeping. She turned 1 month friday already!  She eats a great amount and can give us some strong burps! When Daddy comes home he takes her in his arms for hours!   Last night was a little easier for me to relax while she slept but she was pretty fussy after eating at midnight.  We will get there with the feedings.   We are just so happy and excited to have her home and inour lives!!

More pics to come soon.. I promise! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The big day has come!!

Now I can't sleep from excitement!  Just when it was getting annoying and old..  I was told Emelia could come home!  We were told this weekend it would be soon.. possible this week.  Then told on Monday it would be Wednesday but we still didn't want to get our hopes up.  Then yesterday we went over everything and I really believe today is it!!!   I am so happy.  Finally!!  Of course I'm a bit nervous and like every mom I will stare at her all night but I am so excited!  I think Larry is too since he didn't sleep much!   I had a great day with Emelia yesterday.  She really has changed and grown so much stronger and mature in her feedings.   To all you NICU moms...   there is a happy take home baby day coming soon! 
Of course I will write more when I have time!  and I know I still have more pics to post!   Oh and I feel great from chemo dose 2- my hair hasn't fallen out yet.. its really a thick peach fuzz these days...    and I haven't had any side effects from the taxol/herceptin that I can tell  yet. 

One more thing.. I met another young girl with breast cancer yesterday who is 26 weeks pregnant.  She has her mastectomy today and there is a chance she will have to deliver her baby.  Please keep her and her baby in your thoughts today.