Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Rock and A Hard Place

Have you ever heard that expression "between a rock and a hard place:?  That's where I am right now.  Not moving forward, not moving back...just trying to get things normal.  No answer screaming at you in the face; just one decision after another to look at and find an answer for in the midst of so much "grey area". 

I don't get worse, it's just that the dreaded "red spot" doesn't get better.  My plastic surgeon decided I should go to an "infectious disease" doctor just to ensure he is not overlooking anything before the next surgery.  He is concerned that while all things appear to indicate an  infection leading to this area not healing...the fluid that he gets from this area is clear!  He tells me that I am teaching him some "new things".  I told him I'm just not so happy about being his  teacher for all this!

His next step was to inflate me with his "double dose" (which he also did today) so he could expand the skin area and have more to work with during the surgery.  He wants to increase the amount of skin he will have to "work with" during surgery.  My appointment with the infectious disease doctor gave no answers yet; although he did say that since bacteria was found at the last surgery, I needed to know that bacteria has a tricky way of adhering to a foreign object within a body...and is very difficult to get rid of even with medications.  He thinks this is the case with me and that the bacteria has attached itself to my extender.  He has ordered cultures of all kinds to happen during the surgery and he will look at all this and determine future treatment right after surgery.  I also went to my internist (for pre-op testing) and he agreed with all of this information.  He also thinks my body is beaten down by the chemo and this infection just got the better of me.

My surgeon is saying, however, that this will be the last stop in trying to keep this phase of reconstruction going on this breast.  If there is still an indication that this is not working after this final surgery....then I will need to have this extender taken out and will have to wait for a few months before anything can even be tried again. 

So the game plan is on for next Thursday.  I go in the morning to the surgeon's surgical suite, he takes out the old extender, cleans the area thoroughly, takes bunches of cultures, puts brand new extender in....and then we all pray it works!

It's a rock and a hard place.  Not a comfortable place.  Not a place to lay your head.  But it's where I am.  It is, however, a place where God is....as are all places.

It is here in this uncomfortable place that I need to look around me to see how God is there between that rock and hard place with me.  I look at the list of people joining me on the breast cancer walk....we are up to 51 people!  I am so blessed to have so many people wanting to do this with me!  I am encouraged by the donations to our team, Rivertown's Bosom Buddies, that came to total almost $4,000! And then came Sunday when I stood in front of my congregation and thanked them for supporting me, praying for me, pushing me, and being a part of why I was standing in front of them.  They applauded!  I walked back to my seat hearing this wanting to cry because it is God's hand through this applause telling me I can do it!  And I can! And I will!

So that place between a rock and a hard place may not be such a bad place after all.  It's just a matter of who is there with you.  And when God's there...what more can you ask?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Waiting and Walking

The first week of school is over!  A real busy time and one that last year I just kinda sailed through in a fog.  The first surgery was ahead of me; chemotherepy was on the horizon and I was so scared of it, and I was just trying to keep my head above water.

Now, it is a year later and I FEEL like a SURVIVOR!  It has been a very hard, long journey to get here; but I am so proud of myself that I made it this far and I am still intact and ready to do whatever I need to.  Lately, I have heard from some people who had relapses, and of course, this is always on a survivor's mind.  But I can't dwell on thinking about that too much when I have come so far and see "an end" in sight (we do know there is never an end, but I am speaking metaphorically).

I went to my plastic surgeon on Tuesday for that dreaded red spot and once again, it looked "better"; but it is not "good".  A hard decision for him now to make.  But he asked my how much this is all "getting to me"...and I told him honestly that it's not "paradise", but I am willing to do what I need to do to make it better.  He decided that he is going to expand me some more to give him some "extra skin" to work with, and soon he will take out the extender (in surgery in his office), "clean me out well", and then put a whole new extender in.  He feels there is still some underlying infection that just will not ease.  He thinks this will help to clear it and feels it is a good option to try.  So, as of today, this is the game plan.  I will be going back to him on this Tuesday, and the area is retaining some fluid as it has been...so we will see if this plan still is a "go".

I also had my "every 3 week" Herceptin on Friday and it just seems to go so quickly now that it is just the one drug.  I was out of there by noontime.  My oncologist told me that my anemia is getting much better and that my latest heart scan (which I had last Friday) shows the heart ejection factor up to 60...which is "normal"! These things were good news!

This week I also went to see Andrea Bocelli in concert at Central Park; visited with some friends, went to a large Firefighters Parade, had dinner and saw a band (that used to play "back in the day" when Jim and I were much younger).  It was a very full week and I am tired....but such a good, good tired!

I also have a team that will be walking in the "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walk at Manhattanvile College on October 16th.  We have about 30 walkers on our team, "Rivertown's Bosom Buddies".  We have raised (as of this date) $3,320!!  I remember this walk being held last year and thinking to myself that if I was able this year....I wanted to be a part of it!  So glad to be able to do this to "give back" so others may not have to go through what I did.

So this week, I wait for more news and get ready for some good things to happen.  Thanks for your continued support and prayers and please know I still need them! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Long Time No Write

Hello....I'm back.  It was such a busy two weeks, and is always my busiest two weeks of the entire year.  It is the lead-up to school beginning, all the paperwork that needs to be done and then the decisions about staff and classes, and all the last minute arrangements, questions, and details that need to be worked out..  Not to mention dealing with parents, last minute changes, new families and all that a new school year also entails.  Not always new or different items to deal with, but always details to attend to at the last minute..

And here it is 9/11...in New York.  A time of somber reflection and it reflects my life.  I have come a long way, no doubt.  That there is more to go, no doubt.  Can I do it?  No choice...just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I was in church today for a God-filled worship for a peaceful world.  During that time, it was announced that a friend of mine has colon cancer and is just beginning a time that will much impact the family.  Also, I talked to a "fellow cancer patient" (who has a different cancer than mine) and heard they have taken him off his "maintenance chemo" and he now needs other drugs and more testing more often.  So hard for him and his family who has been struggling with his diagnosis for so many years now...and whom will struggle even more now.  So, is my story the worst?  No.  But it is mine and I am tired and wanted it to be better.  Still, I hear these stories and realize that I need to put my life in perspective.

You see, that darned "red area" keeps acting up.  My plastic surgeon has been "babying" me along hoping it would heal slowly and gradually.  He has been most generous in his time and his concern.  Yet, it seems to get better for a while, then suddenly is not.  He gets happy and proclaims it "OK", then solemnly has to tell me that he "is not pleased but instead concerned".  He keeps trying and trying to make it OK.  I know he likes us very much and wants it to be good.  But it is skin that has a mind of its own.  And I guess, it clearly is having "issues".  Finally, last Friday, after my muga scan (which I heard from my oncologist that day turned out "OK"...not sure what that means, but I'll take any positive news), I went to see him and he took one look and clearly was upset that it had once again taken a turn.  He told me that the next step would be to take the implant out of that breast, let it heal and rest, and then begin again in three months.  He said he would make this determination on Tuesday.  But I think we both know that he is just giving me time to get used to the idea of what needs to happen.  I so don't want to do this...but there clearly is no choice.  I can't keep trying to make this skin do what it clearly cannot.  So I have made my peace with what will need to happen on Tuesday and the news he will have to tell me.  It is so surprising that it is on the breast that was not diagnosed with the cancer.  But, life is not always a perfect path.

I am, however, so glad to begin a school year and church year when I know I can begin to be a part of  "life"  again.  I feel like last year was just a blur and so full of "just getting by".  I do know how far I have come and I appreciate so much the life returned to me.  I just so wanted my implants to be working by now and to be almost finished with the reconstruction and have only the Herceptin to finish.  Not that this is the end of it all...there are still many future tests and scans and other "stuff".  Just that the worst of the worst would be over for now.

So, I ask your prayers once again.  For strength to not despair that I may have to start from "ground zero" (wow...what a metaphor!) with the right breast.  But if I do, I want to be courageous and strong.