Bless My Heart

the improvement of a southern girl


8 Comments

Cancer – A (hopefully forever) Retrospect

  • It has been 2 1/2 months since my surgery.
  • It’s been 4 months since I was diagnosed.
  • 4 months is a long time to feel sorry for yourself.

This school year started off promising. My fourth year at my current position and my tenth year teaching. I enrolled in a grad class. The Man and I took a wonderful vacation to Colorado. Abby started soccer and Savannah became our tiny little dancer. Everything was cruising right along; so well, in fact, that I’ll go ahead and admit that we had begun trying to conceive a third child (I know. We’re crazy. But we love the lil’ buggers).

I hosted a family birthday party on a Saturday at my house. I was happy. The following Tuesday I got the call.

My happy little world came crashing down around my feet.

So here I am. Looking at this thing in the rearview, praying that it stays there. Just now being able to turn my head around straight and start looking forward again. It’s hard, to be perfectly honest. My thigh is still numb in spots, but I’m getting used to it. My incision site is still hard and swollen, but it has gone down from a baseball to a golfball-sized area, so that’s good. I am trying to begin exercising again this week. Previous attempts were greeting by larger swelling and soreness, so I laid off of it. Can’t do that anymore, I’m getting quite soft and fluffy. Good for a pillow, not so much for me.

I’ve missed my blog, but I knew I couldn’t post again until I made this post.. and this post is hard for me. I’ve been putting it off. Postponing it, I think, because writing this means that I’m through feeling sorry for myself. It’s my acceptance stage.

I totally went through all stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. No, I did not lose a loved one, but as a friend posted on Facebook, I lost what I thought was a healthy body. That’s totally true. A body I just pushed through a half marathon. A body I had been actively training for years. A body that I tried very hard to eat properly for. I felt like that body failed me, because it did. It put me in a position to have to worry if my kids were going to have to grow up without a mommy. It made me have a very difficult conversation with my husband about the reality of my possible outcome. It made me make myself sick with worry. It made me doubt everything I knew that was true.

After my surgery, I didn’t get a sense of relief of it being “over”. It was still very much there in my distorted leg. Only as my wound heals and fades, will the hurt go away as well. The hurt of being betrayed by life.

Like a slap in the face, really.

Who am I to think that my life is perfect? Who am I to get comfortable in my surroundings? Who am I to be settled into a routine? These thoughts have been swirling around my head for months now. What a wake up call.

In reality,  we are all just a breath away from our world crashing down at our feet. A stranger falls asleep at the wheel and drifts over the line just as you cross paths. Crash. You go to work, like you do everyday, and the boss tells you they have no room for you anymore. Crash. Your spouse sits down beside you one day and tells you that they never loved you. Crash. You get distracted while shopping one day and look up to find that your child has disappeared. Crash.

You get my point.

Life is to be enjoyed, yes, but not to get comfortable in. People are not to be taken for granted. Ideas and dreams are not to be left in your head. Lovers, friends, family and children are meant to be loved by every ounce of your being. YOU are to be loved by YOU. And you must lean on God. Always.

So here I am. Post deadly-little-cancer-cell-that-luckily-was-caught-early-enough. I’m gonna check my body out for other little spots for the rest of my life. I’m going to accept my pasty white skin and accent it with muscles and cute clothes instead of cancer causing pigment. Okay, maybe I’m going to invest in really good SPF and fake tanners. I’m going to get my body back in shape and then maybe start making that baby 😉

I’m starting again, because we are all blessed with the ability to do so.

Advertisements


3 Comments

Scars

Hello from the other side!

We checked-in at 6:00am to the Mays Clinic, which is Md Anderson’s primary outpatient surgery clinic across the street.  There were a handful of other people there checking in as well. A bubbly cheerful middle-aged woman who I latter heard has had brain biopsies among other things and a tired gentleman in his sixties whose wife rolled in him on a wheelchair and he rested his head on her lap while he waited on the couch.

One thing I am constantly in full awareness of is the fact there are so many levels to this disease. At one point, every one of patients I passed by during these visits was just like me, just starting out on this journey. I have good faith to say now that my surgery is over, I am safe from having to go to the terrible side of cancer. What I’ve been through sucks completely, but it has mostly been a mental battle. Any further, and the physical battle intensifies along with the mental. I pray that I never have to go there.

Melanoma, from what I can tell, is a tricky little b—-. It’s not “bad”, until it is “BAD”. That meaning, as long as you find it early, you will be okay cutting it out and monitoring. If you don’t find it early and it progresses to other areas of the body, you are mostly out of luck – even with chemo. They have one main chemotherapy treatment (Interferon), and it doesn’t have the best track record with actually WORKING with melanoma. So—-  that’s why I was so scared, because I knew that. The doctors told me that up front, so nice of them.

BUT!

I didn’t have to do a sentinel node biopsy because they didn’t see the need because of the size of the tumor. Yay for blessings. Yay for the inner-voice (my angels) telling me to get the spot looked at so early. I knew that thing didn’t look/feel RIGHT on my body, and because I went with my gut, I could have possibly saved my life.

So we get there at 6:00am. By 6:30 I’m getting in my gown, getting my IV (in the side of my wrist… ugh… gave me the ebby jeebies), and by 7:30 they are sending Jerod off to the waiting room and telling me they are giving me something to help me “relax”.

“*giggle, giggle… Hey! The curtains are moving! *giggle* Y’all should get some curtains that are more trippy so people can enjoy this more! *giggle*”

Yeah, I’m happy when I’m high….  

And that’s all I know. I didn’t know that they were putting me under then and when I woke up it was 9:30 and it was all over. I had to look at my leg before I believed the nurse. Yep, there’s a big cut, I guess they did.

So there it is. Hopefully all behind me now. I will get another path report in the next 7-10 days to have the final word. Keep praying!

I thought I’d go ahead and show you the surgery site. Hey… I should get a little fun out of this, and who doesn’t like showing big scars! I’ll make it small so it doesn’t gross to many people out, but if you want a bigger look, just click on it. Cheers 🙂


3 Comments

Patience for good or bad

The new report didn’t say much more than the first one.

  • It’s still probably melanoma.
  • They don’t know how big it is because of the original shallow shave biopsy.
  • I’m going to have a hole cut out of my leg.

Since there is not much information to go on, I will probably be given the option to go ahead with the sentinel node biopsy. This means I will have several shots of radioactive ink (or something?) inserted in my thigh. This will then “highlight” the sentinel, or first, lymph node in that area. It will be removed through a separate incision in the groin.

  • So I’m going to have a cut in my groin as well……….

I’m totally not excited about that. But I guess that doesn’t matter.

I’m pretty much in the state of mind of “it doesn’t matter” right now. Because it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how I feel, because it’s going to happen anyway. Regardless if I’m nervous, sad, angry, depressed, or confident. No matter what feeling is involved, the life-event is happening without my opinion of it.

That being said, I am definitely affected.

My work has severely suffered this last month. I cannot stay focused or organized and have no concept of time management. Our concert date is crashing forward and we are nowhere near ready. A date change may be order, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve gained at least 10 pounds stress-eating, and I don’t want to do any sort of exercise most days. Food has always been my crutch and what better reason than cancer to need a crutch? I have no desire to bust my tail exercising either, as I know I’m going to have to start all over again after my recovery period. Doubt I can get a good sweat on when I’ve got incisions all over my left side….. Groin…

Just sit there right now and think about somebody cutting into the area around your leg crease. Yeah. Makes me cringe too.

So that’s where I am. At a numb standstill, growing fatter and weaker, and therefore hating myself more and more each day. I sit here and remember where I was last year at this time. A strong and much more fit running machine with the world in the palm of her hands.

I’m losing the image of that girl in my mind.

I sit here and think about what I wanted to accomplish this year, and see the calendar days slipping by relentlessly. I’m tired of waiting. I want this to be over. I want to move on and I can’t.

So that’s how I feel. Frustrated.


2 Comments

It’s been two weeks today.

I was talking to my band students today about attitude. I was about to tell them that having just one student with a negative attitude is like a cancer, affecting the rest of the group.

I had to stop myself from using the word.

I feel like curling up in a ball.

I hate this.

—————————-

And now it’s been two weeks since I got the news and one week since I went to Houston. I know NOTHING more. Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Does it matter how bad the growth looks to them?

It matters to me.

And that’s all that matters.

I see the damn thing all the time now. When I’m getting dressed and undressed. It stares at me. When I use the rest room, there it is on my leg. Every day. Every hour. A reminder that I am not as healthy as I thought I was.


1 Comment

Whatcha know?

So, whatcha know? Cuz I don’t know anything yet.

No news is good news, right?? Or, the pathologists at MD Anderson just happen to be very busy people and they haven’t gotten to it yet. Or they have a question about something they see and they are waiting on whatever or whomever to figure it out. I don’t know.

My nurse doesn’t know, either. I called on friday to see if they knew anything yet. Left a message. Got a call back. The above is basically what she told me…   They don’t have anything yet.

So – – –  here’s to monday!

I feel like a lifetime has passed since wednesday.

I do feel better about life in general, however. I woke my lazy butt out of bed and actually went to the gym this morning. That’s a start in the right direction 🙂 I’m sooooo out of shape right now, it’s not even funny. I have a sticker on my car reminding me I ran a half marathon just this past february, but my dress clothes are telling me that february was a loooong time ago. Bleh.


3 Comments

Tired of wondering

“So how did it go?”. . .

We got into Houston around 10:15pm. Crashed hard and slept fast and woke up at 6:00am so that I could say hi to some family before they left for school/work. We decided to go ahead and venture into town so that we could beat some of the traffic.

Didn’t work. Traffic is EVERYWHERE in Houston. Just FYI, in case you didn’t know 😉

We grabbed some breakfast and made our way to MD Anderson. Wow, what a place. We valet parked (which was nice) and found our way to the melanoma wing. There are people stationed everywhere to help patients find their way around, another plus.

Even though we arrived about an hour earlier than our appointment, we were quickly sent through the paperwork and admissions process. I realized my driver’s license is expired. Happy birthday to me… Whoops 🙂

Maybe another 10 minutes went by and we were being called to the back. Height, weight, temp, blood pressure, and we were in the exam room. “Effie” the nurse comes in and is very nice. My age (young :))  She tells me that I am very lucky that we found it so early and makes it sound like it is no big deal. I have mixed feelings about that. Yeah, it’s not a big deal for y’all, but it is 100% of my cancer experience so far, and it’s a pretty big deal for me.

She leaves and I have to put on the lovely, notorious, backless hospital gown. Good times. Nurse practitioner comes in. She is a petite, thin middle-aged women with a sweet smile. I’m instantly put at ease in her presence. She goes step by step on what having melanoma means to me and my body. She explains how some grow out and some grow down, but they are all growing and heading for the lymph nodes, where they can then spread throughout the rest of the body.

I have melanoma, so the least of my treatment is cutting it out. They have learned over the years that you can’t just cut out the spot itself. It will come back. In order to be absolutely sure you have ridden the body of the cancer, they  must take 1 cm of healthy tissue from around the tumor. This ensures that no little iddy-biddy cancer cells that are left behind will grow back. Since it is circular cut that they will do, they also can’t just close it up. They will make an elliptical excision so that the skin can be stitched together to cover the hole. Something like this…

Which means a nice 3-4 inch battle scar on my leg for the rest of my life. But that beats dying, I suppose 😉

So, even if they don’t find anything else, I will have this surgery. It’s already booked.

My problem is that we don’t really KNOW anything about my little spot, yet. The doctors in Houston were not impressed with my report from Louisiana. They are waiting for their guys to do it again. To get a better idea of what is going on. We were hoping it would be done while we were there, but alas…. my luck got in the way. No report yet.

If the cells look like they are active and aggressive (metastasizing), I will have my sentinel lymph node checked by some nice radioactive fluid they inject into my leg, and it will be removed and tested to see if the cancer has made it there. If that is what they have to do…  well, we are opening up a huge new stinky can of worms and I don’t want to address that if I don’t have to. We will wait for the pathology.

So that’s where I am at. Still waiting. Still not knowing. And it sucks.

I will go back to Houston on Nov. 17th for my lab tests and pre-op. Wait down there on the 18th, and have my surgery on the 19th. What a way to start Thanksgiving break! The surgery is outpatient but they will have to put me under. Sounds good to me. I have a feeling it’s going to hurt like a mother-gun for a while afterwards so I hope I get some good drugs. And I guess it’s best it is right before my break because I can only imagine how non-functional I would be going back to work afterwards.

As far has “how am I doing?”, I don’t know. Scared still. Pissed off because I don’t have time for all of this. It has taken over my brain and preoccupied all of my thoughts. Pissed off because of all the worry I am putting people through. Not the kind of attention that I respond well too.

But I guess I’m going to have to get over all of that.

I’ll let you know when I find out something. Anything.

Love–


4 Comments

An Appointment with My Future

Monday went by in a flash, so that means it’s time to pack my bag and get ready to go to Houston tomorrow. At first, I was hopeful that I might be able to leave at 2:00pm, when my planning period starts. An hour earlier on the road to H-town makes for an easier trip. But that wasn’t to be, as I then realized we have our one pep rally of the football season tomorrow. Shoot! 😦 So I leave tomorrow after school. 3:30, 4:00 at the latest.

This thing on my leg has barely been introduced into my life and is already causing such a disturbance.

I call it “this thing”, because I’m secretly hoping we get down there and the oncologist says, “Your doctor and the quack she uses for a pathologist don’t have a clue what’s going on. You have a pink, itchy mole and there is nothing else to talk about here. Have a nice day!”.

Not, “Yes, you have cancer and we are going to dig and scoop and cut until we get it all out and then make you do weird tests and stuff to make sure it is not spreading anywhere else”.

Yeah, I like the first conversation a lot better.

Here goes nothing…