Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doing the Happy Dance!

Are you ready for some good news?  I just got home from the Dr (my general surgeon) and things went very well - she took my drains out!  Yahoo, I am doing the one legged happy dance with the drains out – I now come “with no string attached” :) – I think the Pinocchio theme song is in order here: “I have not strings to hold me down, I have no strings on me, he he!”

AND she says I am healing WAY ahead of schedule.  She estimates that I will be starting Chemo the 2nd week in July.  I’ll know for sure when I see my oncologist next Wednesday but let me tell you this is GREAT news – the sooner I start, the sooner I am done!  If all goes according to plan I could be done with this whole ordeal by the beginning of November.  What a true Thanksgiving it will be!  We have a family trip planned to Disneyland in October and I figure with my bald head I will be an automatic “fast pass” for us on all of the rides – LOL.

I feel very grateful that this surgery is now behind me.  Most people in my situation have to wait until at least 6 months AFTER Chemo is done to have the SGAP surgery.  So it creates a delayed sense of closure.  But because my little skin wouldn’t heal properly we had to move ahead and take care of it now.  It is very rare that the skin doesn’t heal – my surgeon actually said she had never seen anything like it.  Leave it to me to be anything but typical :).  She also said that the way things went has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I know this is true and I acknowledge the faith and prayers of so many on my behalf.

So, this news also means that I am a GO for the festivities for our annual 4th of July celebration. While I still can’t sit, I am excited to enjoy time with beautiful scenery - standing or laying, depending on what my body wants to do at the moment :).  I have 14 darling nieces and nephews who I can’t wait to entertain – perhaps in a more limited way than normal, but nevertheless I will be there conjuring up some fun games for them and giving them treats :).  I didn’t get the title of favorite aunt without some creative strategizing and I plan on continuing our traditions!

As I’ve said before, I am so grateful that my cancer wheel landed where it did and not on another door that could have been so much worse.  As I think about this upcoming weekend, I am so thankful to live in such a wonderful country where I am free to have so many choices about my future and treatment.  I’m thankful to live at this time instead of 50 or 100 years ago when they didn’t have the amazing advances in medical technology that we do today. 

Stay tuned – that Chemo Kick Off Party may just be around the corner . . .  

Monday, June 27, 2011

On the mend again :)

Hi again, I’m still alive – don’t they say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger :)?  I must be super woman by now!  So to give you a recap of the past 5 days – I woke up in ICU Wednesday evening around 4:00, after more than 7 hours of surgery.   Through my loopiness I heard my Dr. telling my parents that it went extremely well and I laid there knowing that I definitely had less pain than last time I woke up in this situation.  The nurse I had at that point was very attentive and I even got on Facebook to say "hi" to ya’ll, with my cute sisters giving you further updates on my blog.
So my family left for the night, assuming I was in good hands, not realizing that the night shift nurses were not so empathetic and kind as the first one.   I had a sleepless night in ICU – partially due to the heated rubber raft they placed over my chest and the fact that I couldn’t eat until the next morning in case they had to wheel me back in to surgery.  The SGAP surgery is apparently fairly rare and so the nurses were somewhat uninformed or forgetful about what positions my body was capable of and this as well as their general unempathetic attitude about my situation caused some panic for me.  After trying to reason with them I was feeling so traumatized that I could hardly control my emotions the rest of the day, even after my 2 sisters rushed to the hospital and my Dr. showed up and handled things in a more appropriate manner.  Note to self: never let them leave you alone with the nurse at the hospital when they are not used to patients who can talk back and voice their opinion.  Apparently ICU nurses are not used to patients like me :).
After my Dr. left all of the nurses and medical staff were great – aside from a couple of loopy CNA’s :).  When I finally made it out of bed on Thursday around 10:00 a.m., I was so glad to be out that I didn’t want to get back in.  My left leg/foot felt completely numb and I was determined to stand/walk until I had some feeling back.   So I walked from ICU to the regular unit, where I spent the rest of my time at the hospital.  Friends and family filled up my entire day/evening and it helped the time go by so quickly.  They also brought great meals and I was able to avoid eating most of the hospital food.
After a good night’s rest, Friday was a good day and I was doing laps around the hospital floor every couple of hours.  More friends and family visited and my mom stayed the night and the next day, Saturday I was released after a visit from my Dr.
I made it home after an interesting car ride, due to the fact that for at least the next 2 weeks I have to keep my left leg totally straight.  Have you ever tried to ride in a car with this scenario?  I dare say my techniques are the latest and greatest in how to creatively maneuver.  If you see me in the next 2 weeks, I will be wearing a skirt – not because I am being formal but for reasons we aren’t going to discuss here :). I am learning how to pick up things with my right foot/toes- like those cool people you see on TV – America’s Got Talent acrobats have nothing on me :).
After a visit from my cute aunt and cousin Saturday evening, I had a pretty good night minus a minor episode at 2 a.m. when my body finally rebelled against all of the medication that has been pumped into it over the past month.  I am now down to taking only half a pain pill every 6 hours + advil and pretty excited to be getting back to my regular vitamins and supplements I had to stop pre-surgery. 
Sunday has been a great day – slept until noon, showered and did my hair (on my own) and had dinner with my family and a visit from some wonderful friends.  I am feeling fairly mobile considering I can only lay flat or stand.  I am enjoying the ability I have to talk to so many friends and family on a more regular basis than I normally have time for.  Truly I am blessed through this trial.  My sweet aunt shared a special book with me today, which contained a beautiful quote that resonates a a deep level for me:
"No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God... and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven." Orson F. Whitney

I know this to be true and I testify that God has been with me through this trial.  Thank you for caring enough to read about my experience. 

Love you!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amy got to leave the ICU yesterday at noon!  Yay!  The physical therapists came and taught her how to get out of bed - kind of a roll and pivot - since she can't put any pressure on her left side right now.  She had been in that darn hospital bed for a good 20 hours and was so happy to get up!  She actually walked from the ICU to the new room and did really well and didn't want to lay  back down when she got there.  She has been treated to Kneaders for breakfast, Rumbi's for lunch and Smokey Mt. Pizza for dinner.  Hospital food - no thank you!

She did have a rough first night in the ICU, but that is in the past and she is making tremendous progress.  Yesterday she had some special visitors - we'll have to put a picture up of them!  There are six couple missionaries assigned to the hospital that come around and visit the LDS patients.  So there was a tap on the door and they asked to see Amy.  This cute little elderly couple came in - Brother and Sister Red - she with her soft spoken demeanor, and he with his bubbly smile and suspenders.  It was a hoot! They stayed for a few minutes and visited with Amy and Sheri and I, then went off to visit someone else.  We silly girls called them back in so we could take a picture of them!  I'll have to get Sheri to post the picture...

She is making great progress and will continue to do so.  I'll be seeing her in a couple of hours and will update more then!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recovering and in good spirits

Hello Amy Stevens fan club!  I just left Amy at the IMC and she is HUNGRY!  :)  She's looking forward to a nice breakfast sometime in the morning.  But for now - IV's and ice chips!   She is in the ICU where she has what looks like a inflatable raft on top of her that is filled with continuous blowing hot air.  The room is also being kept quite warm.  This is to ensure that her "front" and her "back" are kept warm and circulation is adequate within the newly sewn together blood vessels.  It was a tedious 8 hour surgery where she was on her back for part of it, turned over onto her chest for some of it, and turned back over once again during the 8 hour span.   Amy's spirits are great and she's handling it all like a rockstar!  She says she is in little pain at this point - probably because she has a clicker to control how much pain meds she is getting.  Yay!  Her nurses are super great and she is having a much better experience in recovery then she did the first time.  She says she feels so much better 4 hours post surgery than she did with the mastectomy.  Right now she is only having ice chips so I was dropping those in her mouth like a momma bird!  When she ran out, I went out to the nurse and requested  Cafe Rio flavored ones....they laughed and her nurse kindly brought back ice chips in some sort of juice. Raspberry?  Strawberry?  Who knows but Amy was lovin' life!

She asked me to tell you all that she CAN and IS checking Facebook and looks forward to messages because she is bored!  She can only lay flat right now due to the River Raft/Hot Air Blanket.  So send her some messages so she has something to do!  :)

She will be in the ICU til tomorrow afternoon - providing things go well through the night and she stays stable as she is now.  Then she will be moved to a regular hospital room and stay there til Saturday.

Alrighty - Amy lou - if you are reading this - did I cover everything!?  :)  If not - text me and I'll more!   G night all!

Surgery Went Well!

Surgery was a success.  Amy is out and resting in her room in the ICU where she will be until tomorrow afternoon.  Not much pain at this point so that is good.  No cell phones are permitted so we will post later on tonight when we have a chance to visit with her.  She is awake and hungry - but not able to eat until tomorrow.  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!
Amy headed off to surgery at 8:00.  Mom said she was calm and feels good about the outcome.  Just 5 more hours to go in the surgery marathon of the day!  Go Amy!  We love you so much and are anxiously awaiting more news.  Talk to you soon :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Part II - Adventures of Surgery

What an amazing birthday I had yesterday! In spite of the trial I am facing, I would have to say it was my best birthday yet.  I have never felt so loved and surrounded by friends than I did yesterday.  Thank you for all who came by and for all who wanted to – your words of encouragement verbally and through emails, cards and gifts truly mean the world to me.  I was so busy planning for the party and then enjoying it that I really haven’t had much time to think about what I am about to embark on.  I am so glad that I got to see so many of you before I am unable to connect with you for awhile.
So tomorrow is the big day – round 2 of the adventures of surgery.  Having done this only 3 ½ weeks ago, I consider myself a bit of a pro.  I will arrive at the hospital at 5:30 a.m., receive my beeper – like the one you get when you are waiting for your table at a restaurant.  When it starts flashing I will be asked to sign my life away – literally to the Drs who are doing my procedure. 
Then I will be escorted to a hospital room where I will be given some amazing attire that would surely secure a spot for me on “What Not to Wear”.  The no make-up, jewelry or hair spray rule, also adds to the whole ambience of the situation. See the sneak preview below of the picture posted from today’s procedure – but with even more accessories :).  Then a nurse will come in and start my IV – I am blessed to have been assigned first class service for this due to my now infamous aversion to needles.  My surgeon called the hospital and requested that the best nurse “Janae” be available to assist me – I am told that she can get blood from a turnip. 
After the IV is in place and blood drawn, I will then lay there waiting for likely a couple of hours before my turn to be wheeled into surgery.  The Anesthesiologist and Plastic Surgeon will greet me and then smother my face with a mask.  After a few seconds of freaking out, I won’t have any further  recollection until I wake up in recovery.  The surgery will take about 5 hours.  I have given my sisters access to my blog, so that you can hear all about how it went it if you’d like. 
I have recently been blessed to connect with an amazing woman who is going through something very similar to me – her blog runs circles around mine and her post yesterday was inspirational and fun.  I’ll reference it here for your enjoyment!
Long Live the Ladies: a letter to cancer: "Dear Cancer, I've given you a lot of thought lately; it would really be impossible not to as you have endeavored with great success to encr..."

Friday, June 17, 2011

A bit of a curve ball . . .

So today I met with the plastic surgeon and because my skin is not healing the way it should, I am going to need an additional surgery, which will delay Chemo for a few weeks – darn!  So my Chemo Kick Off party is off for now and surgery is on for Wednesday (yes, in 4 days).  This surgery will be a 4-6 week recovery time and I will be in the hospital for 3-4 days – probably in ICU at first and then moved to the regular unit when things are stabilized. 
I’m thankful that I have an amazing doctor, since the surgery is a fairly complicated procedure - called the SGAP.  It is actually pretty amazing what they can do – apparently my body didn’t like the foreign object that was placed there in the last procedure, so I’m ok going this route now, knowing that long term it will alleviate a lot of discomfort.  Long term the SGAP has very few complications and upkeep – short-term, it is a little more inconvenient, intensive and basically a pain in the butt (literally ;)) than the first surgery I had.  It’s also not such a bad thing to get some free plastic surgery in the process – LOL, I’ll be expecting calls from Vogue after they get done with me ;).
So after I met with my plastic surgeon, I went to see my oncologist.  He totally agreed with going forward with the surgery before Chemo since we need to take care of the issues I am having before we start putting crazy potions in my body :0.  He and his staff were so nice and patient with my little melt down today when they accessed my port for the first time.  The anticipation was much worse than the reality but needles and blood just are not my favorite.  I’m embarrassed to admit that while I didn’t cry when they told me I had cancer, there have been a few tears shed from the continuous prodding and poking along the way :).
So, I am going to enjoy the next few days before I go back to limited mobility again.  I drove today for the first time in 3 weeks.  I took my nieces out for a belated birthday dinner and a little shopping.  We started the celebration of my “birth week” too, since mine is on Monday the 20th - if you’re in town, feel free to stop by my house that evening between 7 and 10 p.m.  Since the Chemo party is off, we’re having a little birthday open house before I go under the knife again.  Tuesday I have a small outpatient procedure we need to get done before the surgery on Wednesday, so Monday will be sort of my last supper :) – no eating after midnight.  I’d better enjoy those Skinny Cow ice cream bars I can’t seem to get enough of before then . . .
Since I’ll be a little laid up for awhile, my sisters will be keeping you updated on how things are going, so check back here for the latest.  To quote myself – “I didn’t know it was going to be so fun”!  To quote someone much wiser: "It all works out in the end.  If it is not working out, it is not the end."  Gordon B Hinckley

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things are going well

At the beginning of this whole process, I said that I would never do a blog but alas, here I am eating my words and announcing that I have created one – LOL.  I decided it would be the best way to keep in touch with all of my awesome friends and family who are praying for me and doing so many things to support me through this journey.  Please feel free to connect here and just know that with Chemo starting soon, I will need to rest a lot and may not be able to respond but please know that I do read your notes and love you dearly! 

It is now over 2 weeks since I had surgery.  I am feeling so much better and I’m thankful to have the most painful part behind me!  I can now sleep on my side, which is my favorite and I am seeing some improvement in the skin healing and hope that my surgeon agrees.  I’m going to see my surgeon and my oncologist on Friday, so I should know more then on the start date for Chemo - but I think it will probably be around the 6th of July.
Last week I was able to get out and do some shopping for post-surgery things that I needed to buy (who knew that surgery would create a need for retail therapy :)).   They even have special stores for people like me and give awesome discounts :).  Tomorrow I am going to check out one more wig store – just to get another option in addition to what I already found.  I am determined to have the best hair in town as I go through all of this :).  My mom is frantically trying to line up a family picture before I lose my hair and I am gearing up for my Chemo kick-off party where my family is planning a Chemo trivia game, a cancer piƱata and pink accented food choices to complement the theme :).  I’m really excited to have this to look forward to, especially since it is also my birthday coming up.
I think it finally hit me on Friday that I have cancer (or maybe I should say “had” cancer, since technically they removed it in the surgery).  From the time that they gave me the news I never really cried much – I guess it all seemed surreal and I was in action mode trying to figure out a solution.  My family and friends were wondering why they were crying but I wasn’t?  For some reason the delayed emotional reaction finally caught up with me this weekend. I think it is important to have an emotional release as long as you don’t get stuck in it and allow it to bring you down.  So I had a good cry and then ordered a pizza and watched a movie :).  I'm doing fine now, so don't worry - I had a great weekend!
Saturday I got to visit with a wonderful new friend and Sunday I made it to church and made an appearance at a social function.  It was so good to get out and feel more like myself as I talked to friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I have decided that I need to put a sign on my left side when I go out in public though, that says: “do not hug me here :)”.  For some reason people always pick that side and want to give me a squeeze and then I have to explain myself.   
A funny thought occurred to me – last year when all the women were posting the color of their bra in their status update on Facebook in the apparent support of breast cancer awareness, I was one of the few who didn’t do it.  I thought it was silly and kind of weird.  Well, look where that got me – LOL . . .  next time I’ll think twice about not following the latest trend on Facebook :).
Thank you for taking time to read this little update and know that I love and miss you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More good news :)

Met with my surgeon today and she gave me the news that they staged my cancer as stage 2A - I'll take it! AND I shouldn’t need radiation, YEAH! So just Chemo, but the skin is healing a bit slow, so might not start that for 4-6 weeks :(. I’m still not giving up hope to move forward sooner! I’m proud to announce that I did my own hair today AND dressed myself + rode the exercise bike for 30 minutes on level 4 :).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Good news!

Yahoo, I just went to the Dr. and got my drains out! It is literally like having a ball and chain removed - I can't believe how much better I feel now - I am doing the happy dance (one armed of course). Tomorrow I meet with my other Dr. to find out more about next step :).

Monday, June 6, 2011

My day:

2 hour phone call with a wonderful, inspired, friend, then a new friend came by to cheer me and swap cancer stories, showered (without assistance :)), rode my exercise bike on a very low level for 20 minutes ;), listened to my nieces and nephews play their cute piano songs, and now another friend came by to help clean and cheer me. Not bad for a Monday and limited mobility :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011


So, here I am, 9 days after my surgery. I have slept a lot in the past week and definitely had my fill of those “lazy days” we all wish we could have every once in a while. Believe me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be :). The past 3 days I have felt less pain and started to have a little more mobility. It is exciting to think of becoming more independent, but it has also been kind of hard. When the pain was greater, I would just pop a pain pill and take another nap, so I didn’t have much time to think coherently enough to feel much emotion . . .

Now that I am more conscious, it has been hard to be home bound and not able to do all the things I am used to doing. For those who know me well, I don’t tend to sit still for long. I like to leave my house in the morning and be out and about until after the sun goes down. I am action oriented and love meeting new people and connecting them as a recruiter and matchmaker :). Now, with all of the limitations I am experiencing, I am tempted to become a recluse and avoid too much social contact. I know this won’t last, but I wanted to express it in case you feel at some point that I am ignoring you. Please know that I really appreciate your kindness and support as I try to figure it all out.

To answer a few questions – I will start Chemo as soon as the Dr. feels that I have healed from my surgery. The estimate is 4-6 weeks from May 27th – I am of course hoping for as soon as possible, true to my “let’s get on with it” approach to things :). I’m really hoping that Chemo will start by the end of June. There are a couple of challenges I am experiencing right now: the skin is not healing as well as we are hoping, and so we are following medical advice and considering some additional treatment to help it along. I also have some other challenges tied to the cancer that are too personal to share but have been hard to bear emotionally. I am still praying for miracles and believe that there are possibilities for my future that will unfold in a way that will be an answer to prayers. Right now it is too soon to know much on long term effects and so I am trying to focus on the positive and avoid worrying about “worst case scenario” issues.

I have been given so many blessings along the way. My job has been wonderful and it is ironic that I work for Regence, a health insurance company – I am learning firsthand how important it is for us to be there for our members and provide the resources we have for them. Many of my team and the senior leadership of my company have reached out to me to offer kind words of support. I can’t wait until I can go back and be back in my mode as a recruiter. Those of you who know me well, know that I love to network and connect people with opportunity.

My side business – Utah’s Matchmaker is a bit on hold for now. I am of course still meeting wonderful people and will connect them as much as I can through this process. I just don’t know what to expect as I continue to heal and start Chemo, so one day at a time :). I do look forward to the time when I can plan more social events and be a more active matchmaker for my single friends :).

My wonderful mother has been joined at my hip since I came out of surgery and done just about everything you can imagine for me. My family has been so great to provide support and love to me throughout this process. Friends have called and a couple have been successful in getting me out of the house for a short outing this weekend. I have connected with the Young Survivor Sisters group, for women under 45 who have survived breast cancer. I’m happy to have my name on this list already :). They have given me so many resources and support. I’d like to end with something that one of the group members shared (as I consider my options for hair loss) :):

“There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. 'Well,' she said, 'I think I'll braid my hair today.' So she did and she had a wonderful day. “
“The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. 'H-M-M,' she said, 'I think I'll part my hair down the middle today.' So she did and she had a grand day. “

“The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. 'Well,' she said, 'today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail. 'So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.”

“The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head. 'YAY!' she exclaimed. 'I don't have to fix my hair today!' . . . Attitude is everything.”  (Author Unknown)

Thank you all for your encouragement in keeping a positive attitude and remembering how truly blessed I am!