Thursday, September 8, 2011


One year ago today, I was officially diagnosed with stage II Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. Or more commonly known as Breast Cancer. I was 24 years old and 14 weeks pregnant with my fourth child. I found a lump a couple weeks before I found out I was pregnant and pretty much summed it up to hormones. After an ultrasound and a biopsy I was most definitely wrong. I have a blog from back then at if you want to read all about it while it happened. This one is definitely going to be a little dirtier, and more real. At the time I was concerned with everyone being so concerned about me, so I held back a lot of truth and gritty details. This will hopefully be a freeing experience as I really let it all out from this day forward.
The ride home from the Dr's office was pretty quiet. My husband said he knew it was bad when they asked us to come in and get my results from my biopsy rather than having just told me over the phone. I, on the other hand was totally unprepared. We got home, told my sister who was watching the kids, and went up to our bedroom and cried. I knew it this was going to be life changing. We texted a few people and let them know, but didn't answer, or make any phone calls. The fear that comes with those words is so chilling I can't even begin to really remember it.
We already had several Dr's appointments scheduled and it was only the beginning of a new way of life. Our kids were to young to even try to explain anything, so we just told them I was sick and would have to go to the Dr a lot. I met with an oncologist (cancer Dr) and with a surgeon, both of whom I really liked. We also went and got a second opinion and had another biopsy done cause one of my lymph nodes looked slightly swollen. I had an MRI which was horrible since I had to lay on my stomach and was 16 weeks pregnant by than. It only took like 30 minutes but by the time It was over I felt so awful I thought I was going to be sick. Everywhere we went people seemed fascinated by me and even more intrigued with the lack of family history as far as breast cancer was concerned.
I was eventually found to have the BRCA1 gene which explained a lot, but also sealed my fate. I would have to have a bilateral mastectomy, and also have my ovaries removed. So the baby I was carrying was officially my last. We didn't want anymore kids, but having that choice taken from me, instead of making it on my own bothered me so much. I was going to start chemo on Oct 8th and every single day from the time I was diagnosed I felt like this evil in my body was taking control of my life. I was scared to death for my baby and it made it even worse when every single appointment I had the Dr's asked if we knew the risks and how little they knew about chemotherapy during pregnancy. I found a website with a ton of info about cancer during pregnancy and that helped calm my fears a little. When we went for my first day of chemo they fill you in on all the horrible things that will most likely take place, and the things that are inevitable. Yep, hair loss. I went and got my mid back length hair chopped off so it wouldn't be so dramatic when it started to fall out. They put us in a room for the first appointment, and besides hating having to get an iv, it was fine. I had what they call A/C which is two different types of chemo cocktail, one was a normal clear fluid that just dripped, and the other was bright red fluid given through an enormous syringe. The nurse was awesome and answered all our questions about everything and told us what to expect in the following weeks. I was to come back in three weeks, for five more treatments. The nurse went over the things we should watch for and gave us a phone number to call if we had any questions, than we ate lunch, and left!
I was totally fine. But chemo is one of those things that gets progressively worse every time you have it. By the second treatment I hadn't lost a lot of hair, but it was starting to come out a little bit and my whole head hurt like someone was pulling my hair. We went to a salon and picked out a couple wigs and had them shave my head. It was my 4 year wedding anniversary. I didn't cry. I have a pretty nice shaped head thankfully. After the second treatment I started to feel the effects more, I was exhausted constantly, and everything tasted extremely sweet. I also had to get eye drops cause my eyes were so dry and they hurt. My baby was growing right on track, we found out it was a girl, and they finally stopped asking if we were sure we didn't want to abort.
By Christmas any evidence I ever had hair was gone. Even though it was buzzed it was still disgusting when it really fell out. I ended up buying a few hats and wore them more than the wigs, which made me feel extremely silly for some reason. The wigs, not the hats. One of the worst things about chemo is you have absolutely no immune system so I was sick aaalll the time. I had my last round of A/C on Dec 30th. Than it was a count down to my babys induction date. I was scheduled to go in to be induced on January 23rd. A few days before that the women in our church gave me the most amazing baby shower I have ever even heard of. It was the first time I felt extreme happiness in a long time. It made me feel like no matter what happened, my baby would be loved and very well cared for. The 23rd came and we tried to have a fun day with the kids before we had to go. We got there at 8:00pm and they started me up right away. Our pastor was there and my dear friend who works in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) was with him. They prayed for us and stayed just long enough for us to get settled in. It was a long night and I didn't sleep very much. By the next morning it seemed like nothing was happening even though I had been on pitocin all night. We had breakfast and than sat around and played on the ipod. At around noon I started to feel some mild contractions, but nothing to write home about. Ryan left at 2ish to get us some lunch. Right after we were done eating the NP came in and broke my water. Things always pick up quickly once that happens and my contractions were coming much stronger and more painfully so I had the epidural done. By now it was about 5:00 and my favorite NICU nurse was sitting with us chatting. At around 9pm I was dilated to a 6 with regular contractions. I couldn't feel them thankfully, but was still getting really tired from the whole process. Fav Nurse decided to go home and try and get some sleep but made us promise to call her as soon as things picked up. The next thing I knew I was able to feel everything except my left leg. I tried to work through the pain but it was so much more intense than anything I had ever dealt with. Soon I could feel my baby making her way out! My husband texted Fav Nurse who turned right around and came back. I called for the nurse to get the dr and she ran in and saw what was happening and the dr came running in. I couldn't put until they had everything they needed for when she was born. It felt like there were 20 people in the tiny room. Finally they told me to push. My contractions were so strong I honestly could hardly keep from passing out. Finally I saw her tiny little pink body in the dr's hands. She was absolutely beautiful, not at all the messy little monkey I expected from a 34 week preemie. She started a soft little cry right away and after being suctioned and wrapped up they let me hold her. She layed in my arms and looked at me while I talked to her softly. After about 5 minutes they needed to get her under a light and try and feed her so they took her into the NICU to do their assesments. Ryan went with her thankfully. It was so hard to see them rolling my baby away from me. She was amazing and I felt so incredibly blessed that I had gotten to hold her at all. I was exhausted so they got me to a room and I was out pretty quick. I dont even remember where Ryan slept that night. I was in a room down the hall from the NICU so I went in to see her as often as I could but I could hardly walk on my own from exhaustion, and pain, both physically and emotionally. I stayed for two nights and then went home, without my baby, on my 25th birthday. I was so happy to see my other kids, I missed them so much. My in laws were there and kept trying to celebrate, but all I wanted to do was go sit in that hospital next to my tiny daughter. She stayed there for a week, which even then is impressive for such a tiny one, but it felt like much longer. I was desperate to get her home and hold her as much as possible before February 7th, which was my surgery date. She was the most precious tiny thing and had the prettiest big blue eyes. I held her against my chest feeling her breath so warm and comfortable and just felt crushed that I would not be able to feel that ever again. Ryan worked nights so I was alone with her at night for a week before surgery. I cherished that week with all my heart.
February the 7th rolled around and I had all my stuff packed to go. I kissed my babies one at a time and took a picture of them at that moment on my cell phone so I could look at them while I was gone. We drove to the hospital and went and sat in the little room. Our pastor and his wife were there, and so was the church secretary who had been bringing us meals. It was so comforting to have them there, they just talked with us and asked us questions about the kids. When they finally took me into triage I got my iv and gown and all that fun stuff. I remember taking my bra off and knowing that I would not need it after this day, and considered just throwing it in the trash. I didn't.
The pastors wife came and sat with me and basically forced Ryan to go eat breakfast. He went reluctantly. We were there for probably an hour before they came to wheel me away. We said and prayer and hugged and kissed. As they took me in the room all I was focusing on was not crying. Just don't cry, you'll be asleep in a second, don't cry....don't cry...don't cry...
The horrible pain shooting down my arm from the iv meds is the last thing I remember.
When I woke up, I was bawling. I heard the nurse telling someone that I had been doing that since they brought me in. I guess the last thing I was thinking before I went out was the first thing my body did when it started to wake up. So much for all my effort. I could tell I was extremely groggy and drugged, my chest was extremely padded but I could feel the pain underneath it all. They brought Ryan in and than took me to a room. I don't remember how we got there, I just remember being there. I slept a lot. I remember waking from time to time and seeing Ryan reading, or talking on the phone, or a nurse giving me fluids. I finally woke up a little bit that night and ate a little bit. I got on my ipod and updated my caringbridge somewhere in there. Telling everyone everything went great and we were doing fine. I didn't feel fine. I missed my babies. I felt like I was going to throw up. I wanted to take a shower. I felt sore all over. Being hit by a truck has to feel better.
They kept making me do weird breathing treatments, which hurt cause I had to breath deeply.
The next day was equally as long and empty. I had a visitor which helped pass time, and later in the evening my mother in law and friend from church brought the kids to see me. Ryan carried them in one at a time to see me and I talked to them for a minute and kissed them. I couldn't hold my baby which broke my heart, but I smelled her sweet head and kissed her tiny face. And than they left.
After two nights in the hospital I went home. They changed my dressing and I saw what was now my body for the first time. Being weaned off the morphine and onto vicodin was horrible. Vicodin does literally nothing for me except make me feel sick, so I was in extreme pain for weeks. I couldn't move either of my arms and I had four drainage tubes on either side of my rib cage, just below my arm pits. Ryan had to drain the liquid into a cup to measure it and be sure there wasn't to much. It was not only disgusting, but also humiliating and painful. All day I laid in my bed on my back with my arms resting on pillows, or sat on the couch guarding myself from the kids trying to climb on me. After about a week I could slightly move my right arm. Getting dressed was the worst. It was so challenging trying to put on clothes without hurting my arms or my sides, or my chest. And I was totally unprepared clothing wise. I couldn't wear plain cotton t shirts cause the feeling of them hurt like hell. I remember going to a store one day after a Dr appointment and trying to find some shirts and just sitting in the dressing room bawling. About two weeks after surgery I went in to get the tubes removed. I was so happy but nervous to get them out. I wanted them gone, but if someone had told me how much it would hurt I would probably still have them today. I seriously almost passed out. If you have the stomach, google Jackson Pratt drainage tube removal and see what you can find. I guess it's not supposed to be that bad but mine were right on nerves or something. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I started chemo again on March 1st. Taxol! It was once a week for 12 weeks and it was way worse than the a/c. The first day I had an allergic reaction and started to go into cardiac arrest. That was terrifying. I had started getting my hair back and had to go through losing it all over again. I re shaved my head alone in my bathroom, and this time I definitely cried. I felt terrible 24/7, but the worst was definitely Fridays. I would go in to get chemo on Tuesdays, Wednesday I would have a horrible medicine taste in my mouth all day long and feel really worn out, Thursday I would start to feel stiff and achy and very tired, Friday I would feel like I had just thawed out from an ice storm, every single joint in my body hurt and I could hardly move. Saturday, Sunday and Monday I would slowly start to recover and then it would be Tuesday again. By about the fourth week they were having problems with my veins so I went into surgery to have a port placed. I woke up and saw two incisions. Apparently they tried to put it in on the left side by it wouldn't work, so they put it in on the right. Two more scars. The incision on the left side got infected so I had to go to a clinic every day for a week to get shots. That was so depressing on top of everything else. One day I didn't make it before Ryan left for work so I threw all the kids in our car and we all went in and sat in the waiting room etc. It was so stressful. I slowly regained movement and feeling in my arms, my right arm way quicker than my left. I was four months out of surgery and I could still not straighten it or lift it straight in front of me. My Surgeon was not going to release me to the reconstructive surgeon until I had full mobility so that motivated me a lot. I did exercises all through the day to regain the movement and finally am able to move my arms normally again. My last day of taxol was March 21st I believe? That was the most horrible week. I felt so awful and had no one staying with us. I would hear my baby crying and just absolutely did not want to hold her. I hurt and I was tired and I know now I should not have been alone. But I made it. I had my port removed in August. I googled that and everyone made it seem like no big deal. Maybe I'm just a huge baby by now, but it sure sucked to me. It's out patient so I wasn't put under or anything, just numbed. Which still hurts! And than laying there feeling my surgeon slice me up and cut through the old stitches was so disgusting I was trying not to puke the whole time. But it's gone now. I have a consultation with the plastic surgeon on Wednesday the 14th which I am so excited about. I cannot wait to have boobs!

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