Bless My Heart

the improvement of a southern girl


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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 🙂


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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.


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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.


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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–


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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…


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So Many Big Words

I have been reading and reading and reading today. Reading beautiful messages encouragement on Facebook that have made me cry. Reading blogs from others that have experienced what I am going through. Reading medical information until my eyes glaze over. So many big words….

  • atypical melanocytic proliferation
  • irregular hyperchromatic nuclei
  • amelanotic malignant melanoma

like I said, “blahblahblah”. Although now I feel as though I might actually start learning what they mean. I’m getting there. Quite a few of you wanted to know the details of my current prognosis, so I thought I would just give you all that I have so far. Maybe you can help me decipher 🙂

From that, what I can tell is that the cancer is deeper than what was cut off, but there is no way of knowing how much deeper until we look again.

Which brings me to my phone call.

I waited all day at school for Houston to call me, and at 2:45pm, they finally did. They confirmed my contact information. They asked me if I had a religious preference (I didn’t like this question at ALL because I know what it eludes to), and told me that I was to be there at 10am on Wednesday, October 13th.

Yes, Ma’am. I’ll be there.

So that is where I am at this moment. Still in a limbo of sorts. The first appointment will just be a consultation with my oncologist, Dr. Richard Royal. I’m not sure how much I will learn more about my little spot during this visit, but it will mean that I am on the right path to getting rid of it quickly. Hopefully.

Thanks again for all of the thoughts, messages, and prayers. It’s been quite humbling.

Love–


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I have melanoma.

I suppose this blog is going to go in a different direction for a while. I was needing inspiration for posting, but this is not really what I had in mind. Go with what you’re given, I guess. So here we go…

Four or five months ago, I starting noticing a pinkish-red raised bump on my upper front thigh. At first I didn’t think a whole lot of it, maybe just a big bite or something since it kinda itched. It never went away, however. I would forget about it and then it would start itching again and I would pay attention more and then forget again. After about two months or so, my conscience got the best of me and I made up my mind to call the dermatologist and get an appointment to have it looked at. Life got busy and it took about a month for me to get around to calling. It was the first week of August that I called. I was able to schedule an appointment for September 22nd.

I don’t know what I was thinking would happen when I went to the doctor, but it was a better experience in my brain. Don’t get me wrong, they were professional and orderly and adequately friendly, but I got the quick impression that they weren’t very impressed with my little spot. After a quick look and a poke or two, she said it was probably just a blahblahblah (i am horrible at medical terms, get used to it) and it was probably nothing but she would scrape it out and send it on for testing, just in case.

I quickly left. I’m not going to lie, I was kinda embarrassed about the whole thing. I thought to myself “Stupid Juli! You are just turning into an old hag lady now and have old hag lady spots on your leg and those professionals probably rolled their eyes and cackled at your ignorance after you left!”

I’m not kidding. That’s what I thought.

So I had a band-aid and a bruised ego and I went on with my life. Not thinking too much more about the little scab on my leg that was slowly healing. My little spot that meant nothing. My 32nd birthday came and went. I embraced the new age like I always have. I’ve never been afraid of getting older (but maybe just a little afraid of any old hag lady spots). I hosted a wonderful family birthday party for my grandfather. We visited and laughed and enjoyed the cool, autumn days.

And then today came.

I’ve been exceptionally tired the last few days. I’m blaming it on doing the more strict Eat-Clean diet that calls for mostly lean proteins and veggies and not many carbs. I was lethargic today. Not functional. I was sitting in a daze. Then my phone rang. A message, “Call Dr. Lewis’ office.” Hmmmm. Doctor’s don’t ask you to call them unless they really have something to say. I was a little concerned.

Called the office. “Juli, Dr. Lewis wants you to come in today if you can and discuss the pathology results from your biopsy”.   MMmkay. I’ll be right there.

Hang up.

Think to myself, “oh shit”.

Frantically start googling everything possible about skin cancer.

Tell myself over and over again that it is probably nothing. Maybe basal cell carcinoma? That’s the one that’s less of a big deal. That’s probably it. That has to be it.

I leave school as soon as I can, go check Abby out of school, and drive as quickly as I can to the office. People are in the waiting room. Last time it took a good 20 minute wait. The receptionist tells me the doctor will see me as soon as she is done with the current patient. Only 5 minutes go by before they call me back. Worried, yes I am.

The nurse looks at me seriously and tells me it’ll only be a minute. She’s right. There’s Dr. Lewis. There’s Dr. Lewis’ serious face. That’s when things become a little surreal.

I hear her say “melanoma”.

I hear her say “blahblahblah” – the specific name for my weird melanoma that has no pigment, which caused her to not consider it as such to begin with.

I hear us both laugh when we both use the world “special” to describe me and my cancer.

I hear her say “MD Anderson”.

It’s at this point that I slightly start to freak out. I’m fighting breaking down and sobbing in front of her as hard as I can. People with little cancer spots don’t go to MD Anderson. People with SERIOUS cancer battles go there. She tells me she wants to be safe from the start and let the pro’s get it from the start. I agree. Let’s knock this thing out ASAP.

She talks more but at this point it is taking all I can do to focus on what she is saying. I want to cry. I want her to leave so I can cry.

She leaves to get the nurse. I cry. I search frantically for tissue before nurse gets back.

Nurse gives me papers.

I make sure my contact information is current. They will call MD Anderson and then MD will call me to set an appointment. I guess this is for real. I’m expecting the call tomorrow or the next day. I called my husband. I called my momma. I didn’t want to call anybody else. I wanted to cry. So that’s what I did.

I’m kinda in shock. I knew that spot didn’t seem right. I knew I needed to get it checked. Hopefully we found it early and it’s not going to be that big of a deal. I guess I will find out soon enough. I’m not letting myself fester on thoughts about this being a big deal, which it potentially can be. I am praying that my intuition to get the spot checked out was really a Higher intervention and blessing before it became something bigger.

Like I said, I will find out soon enough.

Thank you all for the thoughts and prayers. I appreciate them all.

Love —