Sunday, December 20, 2009

Interferon Day 3 and the weekend

Finishing up my first week of Interferon was pretty easy. I got a private room for my treatment on Friday which mean I got a real bed and a TV! At the end of my treatment, the access to my port was removed along with the gauze covering my two incisions. I'm pretty bruised, but the incisions aren't bad. I have numbing cream to prepare the area to be accessed again on Monday. I'm a little nervous about that process! Friday afternoon was much like Thursday. I slept until Danny got home and then felt good for the evening.

Saturday I woke up feeling good and normal! It was a nice surprise. We took it easy for most of the day and went out to dinner with my parents and then took the kids to Frost. It was warm enough to be out without jackets and walking around the shopping center with the kids was a blast! It was a totally unexpected gift to feel so good!

It was a surprise on Sunday to wake up feeling blah. I had a headache and shakes when I woke up (a little like low blood sugar shakes, but less severe.) I fought fatigue and dizziness most of the day. Kinda lame, but I'm going to have to learn to take advantage of the good days and rest on the bad. Tomorrow begins my first full week of treatment, I appreciate your prayers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Interferon day 2

Yesterday I woke up feeling great! My port was sore (I have two incisions that need to heal.) So I took some pain meds and got ready for the day. I even felt good enough to help the kids get dressed for school. My sweet friend Tina picked me up and drove me to The Cancer Center with her 11 month old adorable son Timothy. Danny stayed home to finish getting the kids ready for school and drop them off. I got my port plugged in and set up with my pre-interferon pepcid and benedryl. Filled the nurse in on my side effects from Wednesday. She hooked me up with numbing cream to prepare my port for the new needle on Monday (they'll take out the access today.) And Agnes and Carrie (NP and nurse who work with my oncologist) came to visit me and wrote a prescription for anti-nausea meds for me. The benedryl knocked me out quickly after that and I slept through the rest. Danny picked me up and dropped me off at home. I made him pick up the anti-nausea meds for me, which of course I didn't need then. I slept until Danny came home and felt good last night! The kids spent the night at my folks which makes the morning easy for us!

Today I'm looking forward to being finished for the week! Getting the port access out so I can shower (my hair is GREASY!) Removal of the bandages on my port wounds (the tape is itchy!) Playing with the kids this weekend and celebrating that so far I feel MUCH better than I expected to! I have been warned that the effects of the Interferon can be cumulative, so I may end up crashing more than I want to. Time to get socks and shoes on and head out for day 3!

Thanks for the prayers!!! (this hasn't been proof read, forgive me!)


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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Port and Interferon Day 1

A very quick update before I get ready to head to The Cancer Center again this morning. Yesterday went about as well or better than I hoped. Having the port placed was slightly more traumatic than I anticipated. Mostly because the schedule was messed up and I was in the OR all prepped on the cold, cold table for a LONG time before the Dr showed up and they gave me the "I don't care what you do" drugs. I actually have a double port which is allowing my chemo to go faster! The other patients in the room with me yesterday were jealous and my nurse was delighted. 

The facitity and nurse were awesome yesterday. The other patients were very warm and sweet too. One of my pre drugs is benedryl, so I slept for most of my infusion. I'd guess that will be common. I got the shakes as we left, but they went away quickly. I was still pretty tired, so I went straight to bed when we got home. At home, my stomach got upset and I got sick a couple times. We got home at around 5 and it was bad until about 8:30 when Danny brought me my next dose of pain killers and benedryl. After that I felt better, snacked a little, and fell asleep and was out most of the night. I'm feeling good this morning, other than my port being sore. 

Thanks to everyone for the prayers. Today my treatment is at 9. Danny will bring me home afterward and I'll be on my own for the afternoon. (Hopefully I'll just sleep.) The first day is supposed to be the worst and it's behind me! Hurray!


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Monday, December 14, 2009

A Mommy timeout from the policeman

I got pulled over today for the first time in 10 years. 2nd time ever. Our tags expired in May '09 (my mouth dropped when he told me.) No registration in the glove compartment, proof of insurance expired 2 days ago... thankfully legally we're caught up, but my paperwork was sorely lacking. We misplaced the new tags back in May and just never thought about it. Thankfully the officer was super gracious and wrote me a warning. Scolded me for not ordering a new license with my current address (although it was changed in the system.) I cried, which drove ME crazy, but I was thankful for a warning and the chance to correct things before I got a ticket. I was trying to figure out how I was going to fit going to traffic school in with chemo (which prompted the tears.) I'm such a pleaser and have a more than healthy fear of authority, it's a BIG deal to be pulled over. I think I can laugh about the comedy of errors now.... I think!

In other good news, my lung function test went fine. I was a little below average, but I didn't tell the 50 year old man who was doing my test that my spanx I'm using to prevent my lymphedema swelling may have limited my breathing some. Teehee! 


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The coming week and my inner preacher escapes a bit

I AM beginning my year of interferon treatment this Wednesday! I am ready to begin actively fighting! I'm also frightened about embarking on this journey in which I don't know what to expect. My next blog post is going to be a list of side effects of interferon since they are different than with traditional chemotherapy. I'm hoping that my prayer warriors will be able to pray specifically against the side affects. 

Monday I have an appointment at UMC for a pulmonary function test. The kids are going to hang out at work with Danny while I have that done. It's supposed to be quick! Wednesday morning I have to be at UMC at 8am (EARLY for us!) to have my portacath installed*. That procedure will take up most of the morning. At noon, I am to report to The Cancer Center. At 1pm, I am scheduled for another baseline x-ray. Then at 2:30, I have my first Intron Alfa-2b Treatment. The treatment will take 2-3 hours, so we'll head home around 5pm to see what fabulous side effects I'll enjoy! (The first dose apparently is the worst and it usually gets better from there.)  Thursday I have to be at The Cancer Center at 9am for my second treatment. My sweet friend Tina has agreed to drive me there so Danny can get our kids off to preschool. Friday is another interferon treatment, but I don't know the time yet. The positive thing about having to be at The Cancer Center for 3 hours a day/ 5 days a week is I anticipate the time will go quickly!

Thanks to everyone who is praying for me and has taken the time to read all the details of my week. I know that typing this out helps me process everything. I read an incredible perspective of suffering and healing on Beth Moore's LPM blog today. I am hoping to share this attitude of expectancy for the change God has to do in my heart and spirit. Not bad change, but His transforming work.  As Beth said, I will NOT end this journey the same as I began it. "If I am[the same], I will have missed something huge. Something vital. Something life-changing between Jesus and me. And I do not plan to miss it for this world. It's why He has me here. " I've prayed that God would transform me to love like Him at ANY cost. I don't plan to waste this experience. 

Amen and amen!

*I will be considering myself part Borg from then until it's removed. Resistance to my dorkiness is futile! 


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Treatment plan

Today was a big day of appointments! This morning I had my first appointment with the dermatologist at the Cancer Center. She was very nice and went over all my background infomation with me and then did a full body check for suspicious moles. She was very personable and the check was easier than I anticipated! She said I'm a pretty simple case and there are only two moles she wants me to watch. She instructed me to do monthly skin checks myself and only needs to see me every six months! After seeing Dr. Curiel, I was talked to by a health educator about sunscreen and wearing long sleeves(cue eye roll on my part) and given some sunscreen samples. I heart samples!

Danny and I took a break from the cancer center for lunch. After lunch, we met with Dr. Cranmer, my oncologist. He was FULL of information and made sure we understood his role as well as interferon and the controversy surrounding the treatment. Essentially, it's not a super effective medication, but it does improve odds for some people and is the only treatment available. The current plan is for me to start Interferon next Wednesday, the 16th. I need to have a pulmonary function test, chest x-ray, and IV port put in before I can start. So, I have a busy few days in front of me! I will be having 20 days (4 weeks, 5 days per week) of high dose interferon followed by 11 months of 3x per week self administered (by injection) low dose interferon. Interferon is a protein the body makes naturally to fight infection. So, although I am hopefully already cancer free, Interferon will increase my immune system and help it defeat any remaining melanoma cells in my body. I am also starting an antidepressant tomorrow since 40% of patients on interferon struggle with depression and an antidepressant is considered part of the course of treatment. 

In the last part of the afternoon, I took part in some "word games" as part of a study and had bloodwork drawn. At 4:30 we finally left to pick up the kids from my parents after a LONG afternoon! I'm glad to be home and have the appointments behind me. I dread beginning the treatment, but I am glad to begin putting it behind me!


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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Great day and Jesse Tree Celebration!

It's December already! It was a great day. We are back to a normal schedule this week. I took the kids to school this morning (although Danny was sweet enough to help me get the kids ready.) It was a super productive morning. I got some VERY overdue books returned to the library, hit the grocery store twice, made a new jesse ornament (more on that later), had the car washed, made homemade butternut squash soup and took care of kids! It was a MAJOR victory for this girl who has been on the couch recovering from surgery for the past two months!

Tonight we started our advent celebration with the kids. It's a variation of a Jesse Tree which is a Christmas tradition explained best here. He's an excerpt from their website. Jesse Trees are all over the internet now, but this website is where I found the first and best information when I started researching this tradition a few years ago.

What is a Jesse Tree? It is a tree branch decorated with symbols representing the stories of people in Jesus' family tree. In Isaiah 11:1 we read, "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Jesse was the father of David, Israel's greatest king. And it was from David's lineage that Jesus came. That's where the idea of using a Jesse Tree to celebrate Advent came from. Before a symbol is hung on the branch, a Bible passage or a story from a story Bible is read.

I've augmented our tradition a bit. I picked stories and ornaments to fit with our favorite children's Bible. The Children's Storybook Bible fits with the Jesse Tree tradition perfectly. Every story is written in a way that points to the promise of Jesus. It is absolutely beautiful. I'm making felt ornaments for us. 

This is our first ornament. It's supposed to be an open Bible. It's not my favorite and I'll redo it... someday! Tonight we told the kids, "The Bible tells us about peole who waited for Jesus to come.

This ornament represents creation.

This apple represents the fall of man to sin in the garden of Eden.

This is Noah's Ark, I LOVE it1

This is the tower of Babel. God knew people could never reach heaven on their own. They needed heaven to come down to them.

This ornament represents God's promise to Abraham that he would have descendents that outnumbered the stars in the sky. This is the ornament I made today. Cute, no?


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A lazy bullet point update...

Since I last posted I've...

  • experienced a VERY painful infection at my drain spot
  • had my drain removed after a month! thank God!
  • lost the ability to straighten my left leg entirely
  • developed a bad habit of keeping my weight on my right leg with my left knee bent
  • worked to almost straighten my leg and reduce my limp
  • freaked out doing lymphedemia research and experiencing swelling in my leg
  • tried to find a suitable compression garment to aid swelling
  • been more mad at God than ever before in my life
  • cried and cried
  • enjoyed my family in ways I never knew before
  • started walking to get in shape after 4 weeks on dr ordered "leg rest"
  • gained back the weight I lost between surgeries *see above 6 weeks on couch
  • detoxed from 7 weeks of vicodin and percoset -that sucked, but I did it!
  • turned 30
  • been whisked away for a romantic weekend with my husband
  • had 2 new dishwashers installed 
  • wished I could wake up from my nightmare
  • hated how this is affecting my kids
  • hidden from people who love me 
  • read a life changing article from John Piper called "Don't Waste Your Cancer"
  • been overwhelmed at the information i wanted to share here
  • watched WAY too much TV
  • found out my lymph nodes were free of cancer other than the original one they removed
  • wanted my healthy lymph nodes back
  • dreaded the year of treatment that feels like it's never going to start
  • made an appointment for Dec 9 with the oncologist who will plan my treatment
  • hoped to start treatment the next Monday because I want it BEHIND ME!!!
  • realized I'll probably miss Christmas because of this, but I just want it done
  • received a ton of love from family and friends in the form of phone calls and mail. thanks.
I'm sorry this is mainly negative. I'm trying to be real. It's such an odd thing to most likely be "cancer free" yet be looking forward to a year of treatments that are going to make me sick. It feels so unfair, not just to me, but to Danny, my kids and my family. Danny and I counted last night and I've had 6 surgeries in the past 5 years. It's been a lot. 

I do not believe that this song was playing by accident as I wrote this... God is good! 

Wait and See (selected lyrics)
by Brandon Heath 
There is hope for me yet
Because God won’t forget
All the plans he’s made for me
I have to wait and see
He’s not finished with me yet

Still wondering why I’m here
Still wrestling with my fear
But oh, He’s up to something
And the farther on I go
I’ve seen enough to know
That I’m, not here for nothing
He’s up to something

I'll post something more positive tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for.


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Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Danny!

This is my husband. He's the best friend I've ever known. He loves me on my ugly (inside and out) days. He's an awesome dad. We're a great team. Danny has walked with me through more health issues than we ever could have imagined when we promised "in sickness and in health." He takes care of me, the kids, the house, and a full time job. We are blessed with family and friends who help shoulder the burden, but he does more than anyone can probably imagine.

Danny, you are one of the most selfless people I know. I am so glad you choose me to share your life. I look forward to celebrating many many more birthdays with you. I love you.


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Our new routine...

What's life like as a Melanoma patient? At the moment, it's pretty darn boring! We started a new family routine today that will carry us through my first month of interferon treatment and perhaps for awhile afterward. I'm hoping to be able take over most of the kid duty after that first intense month of treatment. At the moment the kids are going to school full days on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Danny drops them off at 9 and my Mom is picking them up at 4. Mom takes them back to her house and then Danny picks them up on his way home from work around 5:30. I predict they will be exhausted and I am going to learn new appreciation for those evening hours with them. (Or, they'll be grumpy and I'll just want to put them to bed like normal!) :) On Wednesdays through my first month of treatment, my Mom will have the kids for the day and is going to help me with some laundry and housework. My Dad is changing his work schedule so he can watch the kids on Fridays. Once I start treatment, Danny will drop me off at the cancer center (very close to work for him) in the mornings and then drive me home at lunchtime.

It's been a semi-rough day emotionally. Being a stay at home mom is SO important to me and although this is for a limited time, it's tearing out my heart to not be able to take care of the kids. Cancer has taken away a little of my identity as a mom and it's just another reason cancer sucks. My kids couldn't be in better hands. I just talked to Mom and Joey did well today, but Abby is struggling. She's been showing more anger lately. We're trying to stay consistent with discipline and grace. Both kids ask about my drain and back. Abby is a little more interested in the drain and is already asking when I can "take it off." We watched the Arthur episode about cancer with the kids last night. We haven't explained that Mom has cancer. They've probably heard me talk about it on the phone. We'll probably talk about it more specifically this week as we adjust to our new routine. Please pray for all of us as we adjust!


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lymph node dissection

Couple updates from today...

  • Although I wanted to run away and skip surgery today, the surgery went MUCH better than expected. NO med students involved today which was wonderful! I know they need to learn, but I am such an introvert, their presence is really disturbing to me. Sorry friends in med school!
  • I'm on percocet and feel better than I did yesterday on Vicodin! I am for sure a percocet girl!
  • My back stitches are out! I'm much less itchy and more comfortable, although that may be the percocet. :)
  • The drain isn't as bad as I imagined. It is going to be hard to hide under my clothes. My left leg is going to have a noticable lump for the next few weeks! 
  • My CT scan came back clean! Praise God!
  • Dr Warneke showed us the original pathology and the amount of melanoma in the lymph node was 0.2mm. TINY! Dr. Warneke said he expects the nodes he removed today to be clear which gives me a 50% chance of being cured. Excellent odds for melanoma. If I'm not cured, I'm in for a fight with melanoma that reappears. I'm still going to win this battle! 
Thanks for all the prayers today. I had the BEST nurses and things went very well for a day that well... let's just say surgery is losing it's charm for this girl. I'm hopefully done for a LONG while!


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wonderfully normal

I got the kids ready and delivered them to and from school today. It was wonderfully normal! Abby hid from me when I went to pick her up. She did NOT want to come home! This made me feel better about her going all day next week (T/TH). Joey will do great, but my baby I worried about. It will be especially nice that Joey and Abby will be together for lunch and the afternoon class. We are SO blessed with incredible teachers at their school. When I first got my diagnosis, I asked God why this couldn't have waited until the kids were both in school all day so their daily schedules wouldn't be so interrupted by my being sick. But, it's become abundantly clear that the flexibility of Light the Way and most importantly, the love their teachers have for them and our whole family is going to be such a blessing to us as we walk this road. There is NOWHERE I'd rather my kid be than with their sweet teachers if they can't be with me.

The kids are napping and I am spending naptime previewing an Aurthur I recorded to possibly show the kids. All this week, PBS is playing a special episode about cancer. Lance Armstrong "guest stars" in cartoon form in this episode. We haven't told the kids that I have cancer. Just that I had a mole that could make me sick that the doctor cut off.  We still have some decisions to make about what we are going to tell them. I'd appreciate prayer for wisdom in that and peace for our sweet kids. Abby's first words to me this morning when I woke her up and carried her to the living room were "Mommy, does your back feel better now?" So, they are definitely aware of how I'm doing. 

Tomorrow is my lymph node dissection. It will be sometime in the afternoon. The kids are staying with my parents for a couple nights. I'm off to rest and call for my report time tomorrow!


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Monday, October 19, 2009

CT scan

Today was my Dad's turn to be my chaffeur. I think by the time I'm through this "trial," I'm going to need driving lessons because I haven't driven in such a long time. Except, I'm taking the kids to school tomorrow and I guess that will be enough driving practice to make up for the last month of driving withdrawal. Anyway... my sweet Dad picked us up at noon and we took the kids to Matt and Alli's for the afternoon. Bless them for sacrificing their kids' nap time and their quiet time for me! 

After dropping off the kids, we headed to the Medical Imaging place. I was very nervous about the barium drink. I had a CT scan in May before my hysterectomy and that thick barium just barely went down. It was terrible! I was VERY pleasantly surprised when I found out the imaging facility I went to has a "fruit punch" drink instead of the thick barium. It wasn't yummy, but it was thin like water and easy to get finished quickly! I then read* and waited for my turn to have my scan. The scan was easy. I loved that they didn't make me change into a hospital gown! The tech did an awesome job getting the IV in one stick and listened to me when I recommended which arm had the best vein! The whole thing was easy and I'll hear the results tomorrow. The scan was to check and make sure the melanoma hasn't metastized into any organs or other areas of my body. I have a lot of peace about the results. Especially because the melanoma was only in one of my lymph nodes that they removed. It shouldn't have had a chance to move anywhere else! 

After my scan we went to the cancer center for a quick visit with my amazing nurse coordinator, Lindy. My incision is looking awesome, but each of the places where my stiches come through my skin are bright pink, swollen, and burn! Apparently this is normal and my incision area is healing wonderfully! She took some time to explain the drain that is going to be put in on Wednesday and what we will need to do to take care of it. drain_ball.jpg (21819 bytes)
This is a picture of what the drainage tube will be. The white part is under the skin and the bulb acts as a vacuum to gently pull out fluid and can be removed to drain it. How am I going to hide this under my clothes? Any ideas? I will keep the drain until I am having less than 30cc's of fluid drain in 24 hours. Lindy warned me that my body is NOT going to happy that I am having surgery again and I should plan on it not being an easy recovery. She also reminded me to be eating well and sleeping and recommended Ensure for days I have trouble eating. It was a good appointment and I'm glad I got to see her before my surgery on Wednesday!

We went to get the kids and they were horridly behaved because they didn't want to come home! Abby cried until she fell asleep in her carseat and Joey was quite pouty. Vegging in front of the TV, cuddles with Mom and a snack cured the grumps and we were glad to see Danny home a little early!

Tomorrow brings preschool after a week off. Hooray!!! I'll be on my own tomorrow and look forward to one last day with just the kids and me before another round of recovery!

*I started reading "Get out of that Pit" by Beth Moore today. It talks about three different types of pits people end up in. The pit I identify with right now is the one you're "thrown into" I really am excited to see what Beth has to say about how to get out of this pit that I didn't chose and feel like was thrown on me rather than me falling into it! It is important to me that I use this time to learn every lesson God has for me as much as I can instead of just coping and getting through it. I'm sure there will be days that the best I can do is get through, but my God is big enough to use even the worst days to teach me about His comfort and love.


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reality hits

Last night I hit a wall emotionally. For a couple days I had kept thinking, "This isn't what I asked for. This isn't what I want." It probably sounds stupid, but it was the way I was processing and accepting my new reality. Last night we went to bed late and I just fell apart without any warning to poor Danny. I sobbed and raged and spilled every awful thought and fear I'd tried not to have in the past month. The emotion surprised me as much as it did Danny, I think. After going through about half a box of kleenex, I settled down enough to get to sleep around 1:30am. Poor Danny got less sleep than I did when Joey woke him up after a bad dream and wanted to cuddle. The alarm went off at 7:15 and Danny called my Mom to ask her to cancel our morning plans. She sweetly offered to take the kids and she and Danny got them ready before I even woke up. I am well cared for. I woke up and Danny was on the phone with Lindy, the nurse coordinator for melanoma patients figuring out why my stitches are driving my crazy and getting a refill of pain meds for me. 

I ended up calling Lindy later in the morning, finally ready to ask the question I've been too scared to ask. If my lymph node dissection comes back clear, will I need to do the year of interferon treatment (the equivalent treatment to chemo for melanoma?) The answer was a solid yes. It's my best chance to prevent recurrence. Once the drain comes out after my lymph node dissection, I will begin a month of high dose treatments, followed by 11 months of self administered shots. I had thought I was out of tears, but there were a few more at this confirmation. I'm so thankful the kids weren't home. THANK YOU MOM!

Now we begin making plans. For my first month of treatment, it sounds like I will need rides to and from the cancer 5 days a week and the advice I am hearing from other interferon recipients is I won't be up to taking care of the kids, so we're going to need to figure that out. We have some good beginnings for those plans and I am so thankful for the community of support we have.


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Monday, October 12, 2009


  • Impulsive trips to Phoenix for lunch at a park and a visit to IKEA
  • Elice (my next door neighbor growing up) and her visit while I was in recovery and Danny was in the waiting room
  • that Dr Warneke took 2 lymph nodes from the left side so even though one showed cancer cells, we know because the second didn't!
  • flexibility at work for Danny and a compassionate boss and coworkers
  • prayers and love from family and friends
  • kids who are great sources of something to think about other than the c-word
  • a high school friend studying oncology and offering support and information based on her knowledge and passion
  • meals to feed my hungry growing kids
  • fall weather, open windows and a new screen door on my back porch!
"Consider it a sheer gift, Martha, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you ... Read Morebecome mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it." James 1:2-5 (adapted for me by my sweet friend Amber)


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Thursday, October 08, 2009

pathology results

After a LONG day of waiting for a call, Danny finally got through to our nurse coordinator, Lindy. The margins on my back are clear of melanoma (which means there is a 2cm cancer free border, side to side and deep, of the area they removed on my back.) The two lymph nodes they removed from my right leg were clear, but on the left side there were traces of melanoma in the sentinal node (the first node lymph reached from my back) although the second node was clear. This is a really excellent sign that the melanoma spread is most likely limited. I will have more surgery to remove the rest of the lymph nodes from my left leg and a PET and CAT scan at some point. Tomorrow I'll get a call about scheduling.

It's not the news we were hoping for, but we are hopeful. The nurse was very emphatic that this is NOT devastating news. I'm dreading more surgery and the swelling that accompanies the the loss of more lymph nodes. We're going to need our community to help as I recover again. I'm not up for talking. Danny has been my sweet spokesman all day. I appreciate continued prayers for healing and peace.


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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Surgery day- part 2 Have you ever smoked?

When we got to the check in desk, we were greeted with a bright "We've been waiting for you!" Danny was given a patient number for me and told he could watch a screen to see where I was in the process of pre-op, surgery, recovery and some other designation. It's much like at the airport to tell you when flights are arriving and boarding. It sounded great, but apparently I never moved from the pre-op spot on the screen, so... anti climatic. :)

I got signed in at the front desk and went straight to registration where they asked me AGAIN if I'm a smoker (no) and how much a drink alcohol (less than two drinks a week.) Dr W came and found us in registration to get the pictures of my scan from me (apparently he'd been pacing the halls waiting for us.) He quickly looked at them, and told us he would probably remove two lymph nodes from one side and one from the other. We got to sit in the waiting room for a couple of minutes before a nurse tech brought us back to the pre op area and took my blood pressure and asked if I smoked or drank. She then handed me off to my nurse, Kim (a guy) who had me change into my pretty hospital gown, gave me my bracelet and asked if I drank or smoked. The next 20 minutes were a blur or meeting residents and med students and anesthesiologists. There was a much too long failed IV attempt by a med student before Kim my man nurse saved the day by getting an IV in while another anesthesia student was tying off and checking out my other arm for good veins. Thank you God for Kim. The anestesia student REALLY seemed to want to give me an IV, he kept telling me it might need to be redone while I was in surgery. I woke up with the original IV, so I think he missed out on my vein awesomeness. I said goodbye to my sweet husband and they gave me my "happy juice" and rolled me off to the operating room.

I woke up in recovery and most of what happened after that is a blur of a sore back and nausea. Maybe Danny can post about the rest of the day.


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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Surgery day- part 1 Where Martha becomes radioactive

It's 3am and my day of sleep has caught up to me, I have a little bit of insomia. Thankfully, I'm feeling pretty good. The house is so peaceful tonight. My sweet brother paid for my house to be cleaned today while we were at the hospital and this woman worked her rear off! It was SO nice to come home to! Thanks James! It's raining outside and I feel wrapped in Gods peace. Thought I'd spend some time writing about what happened today while I remember it!

We woke up at 6 to get ready for the day. We were due to report to Nuclear Medicine at 7:30. Nuclear medicine is in the basement of the hospital and the place looked like a bunker. The reception window was very narrow and surrounded with stainless steel. There were classic yellow with burgandy print radiation warning signs on the walls. There was only one radiologist, Bill, working that early and one other patient there when we arrived. Bill came to the waiting room to get me and let Danny know the scan would take about 45 minutes. He sat down with me and explained exactly what he was going to do and was very sweet about helping me find the most modest way to cover myself with two gowns and a blanket. I started out laying on my stomach while he injected the radioactive dye in 4 spots around the biopsy site (where my mole used to be.) The needle sticks were easy, but the dye burned as it was injected. Once the dye was injected, he firmly massaged the area to get the dye started moving into my lymph channels. I then flipped onto my back and (... got nauseous and fell asleep on the couch before I could finish my story...:)

Once the dye was injected, I laid under a large x-ray machine and the tech took photos of the dye moving through my lymph channels to my lymph nodes at 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and 3 minutes. Mine went around both sides of my hips into lymph nodes at the tops of my legs on either side. I'm SO thankful it didn't got to my armpits! The technician took photos for the surgeon and then marked my legs where the lymph nodes were. He then made sure I understood that the dye indicated the lymph channels in my body, but indicated NOTHING about cancer. Based on where the dye traveled, the technician guessed I would have two lymph nodes removed on one side, and one removed on the other side.

By the time all this was finished, I was about 5 minutes late for my surgery report time at 9am. My sweet technician took us up the "Emergency Only" elevators (they also are designated for transporting radioactive material, which apparently, I was!) and walked me to check into surgery where they were waiting for us.


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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Surgery info

For those of you who have asked...

I will go to nuclear medicine tomorrow at 7:30am for a scan in preparation for my sentinel node biopsy. They will then send me upstairs for surgery that is scheduled at 9am. Someone has been praying, because it was originally scheduled at noon! I'm thankful to not have to wait.

Thanks for all your prayers. My parents have our kids tonight and tomorrow night. Poor Danny is knee deep in the cold I've had and I have just started coughing. Please pray that we will wake up feeling like new people and that my surgery will be able to go ahead as scheduled (I was told they won't postpone it unless I'm very run down or running a fever, so I think I'll be good to go ahead.) Thank you so much for the incredible prayer covering we have felt. We will update tomorrow, but we won't know the results of the surgery until next Thursday.


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Monday, September 28, 2009

To everyone I've slighted in the past weeks

I am in full on introvert mode and don't feel much like talking to anyone. Especially when I know calls are probably going to discuss the c-word. Yes, I'm screening my calls. No, I haven't been replying to voice mails or emails. Partly because I'm trying to protect the kids from overhearing scary things and partly because if I could, I would be spending the week in bed with my covers over my head. I am SO appreciative of all the sweet thoughts and nice notes on facebook and email. They mean the world to me. I would assume I'll have days I'll want to chat, but for now, please forgive my behavior that has Emily Post rolling over in her grave right now.


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Friday, September 25, 2009

Arizona Cancer Center

Yesterday (9/24) was my first appointment at Arizona Cancer Center since my Malignant Melanoma diagnosis last Wednesday. Right away, Danny and I were completely impressed with the center. It's a new facility with pretty landscaping outside. The lobby is huge and lovely with a player piano (a three year old was "helping" play when we first walked in. We started at check in and were warmly welcomed and given a pager that looked like the discs you are given when waiting at a restaurant. It had a readout on it that instructed us where to go when it vibrated. We had just a minute to sit down and notice the book lending libraries when the pager alerted us it was time to go to registration. We were greeted at the door of the registration room and got all signed in with health insurance. Thank you Lord for our health insurance! We then were walked to my doctor's office, on the way we got a mini tour of the facility. There is a Sunstone rescource center for support groups, nutrition, and massage information, a lab on site, free WiFi available, computers for visitor use, a library and a cafe where you can get a free drink and snack each time you are there for an appointment. I had new patient paperwork to fill out, then we were taken back to wait for Dr Warneke. Highlights of our wait were changing into a highly fashionable hospital gown and then figuring out I needed to go into the hallway to pee. I HATE that! Two surgical residents came and looked at my back, asked some questions and left. Dr. Warneke came in a bit later. He was warm and kind. He looked at the spot on my lower back "formerly known as my mole" and did some probing of my lymph nodes. He explained that the size of my melanoma was intermediate, which means we didn't catch it early, but we didn't catch it late, either. There is about a 20% chance that the melanoma has spread to my lymph nodes. But, it is highly curable at this point. I will be having surgery this coming Friday (October 2.) They will remove a large oval of skin around the melanoma to make sure there is a "clear border" of healthy cells around what they remove. The oval will be about 4" x 3". They assure me that everyone has plenty of back skin to compensate for this hole they're making. Lucky me will have a scar on my back to match my c-section scar on my front! They will also be injecting a dye around the mole before surgery and doing a scan to see which lymph nodes drain the area around my mole. Dr Warneke will remove the first lymph node the dye reaches and it will be sent to pathology to test for cancer cells. The pathology results should be available sometime on Thursday October 8th. If the lymph node is clear, I will see a dermatologist ever 3 months for the next 2 years. If the lymph node shows signs of cancer, I will be put on a medicine called Interferon which suppresses the melanoma. It isn't chemo, but it has it's "fair share of side effects." Dr. Warneke said it feels like you have the flu for a year. We then met with the nurse coordinator who gave us more information about post op care and melanoma treatment. She even called me this morning to check on me and ask if I had questions! I had some lab work drawn and was given orders for a chest x-ray.
Danny and I left feeling well taken care of and very hopeful. I'm sure it was in large part due to the incredible prayer coverage we had from our friends. I am at peace about the future. Thank you for the incredible support we've been given.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The colonoscopy was supposed to be the bad part of my week

This has been the longest and scariest week ever. I had a colonoscopy on Monday to begin the process of helping my IBS symptoms. Thankfully, it didn't show anything bad. Whew! Get on with my week, right? Tuesday was my "easy" appointment of the week. Went to the dermatologist seeking acne treatment and to have a mole on my back removed. I knew it needed to be removed and checked, but never would have guessed I'd get a call the next day that it was Malignant Melanoma. My world is upside down. I'm waiting for a call from the AZ Cancer Center and waiting sucks. I'd probably better get used to it, eh?